Palacios, who has been out of action since injuring his right foot over summer, returned to practice this week and should start Saturday's season-opening game against Tennessee-Martin.
"Tello is 90-10 (percent) and will play," said the Louisville coach. "He practiced yesterday and today full boar and is by far our best frontcourt player, there's nobody even close to him."
Pitino gave much of the credit for Palacios' sooner than expected return to trainer Fred Hina, whom he called "as valuable as any player on his basketball team."
"Fred has him not in peak condition, but near peak condition without having played basketball," said Pitino. "Let me give credit where credit is due, and I'm understating it when I say this. We've had a trainer who has seen more injuries in the last two years than I have in 32 years of coaching. Without Fred Hina we would not have gone to the Final Four last year. He just goes beyond the call of duty to get players ready."
Pitino said that U of L has been extremely cautious about bringing Palacios back, going as far as to consult with several expert doctors out of town.
Pitino said Padgett could return by
It also appears the David Padgett could return sooner than initially thought after the 6-foot-11 sophomore center sprained his left knee during last Saturday's Red-White scrimmage.
"David is probably 10-90 (percent) to play Saturday," Pitino said. "There is an outside shot he'll play – not a great shot. I feel very comfortable saying David will play those three games (Dec. 3-5) even though they say 3-4 weeks. It's a sprain, like an ankle sprain. He has a knee brace and he could play. Would we risk playing him if he could get hurt? Absolutely not. The trainer, player and the doctors make those decisions."
With help on the way, Pitino hopes his young squad can take care of business until the rest of the team gets healthy.
"If we can hold serve at home, the cavalry is on the way," Pitino said. "Once healthy, I think they'll develop into a very tough squad."