Freshmen get feet wet in Pitino's system

Four Louisville freshmen have received their first taste of college basketball while the Cardinals have been preparing for this weekend's Canadian trip. Through two-a-days and Rick Pitino's rigorous practices, Derrick Caracter and fellow newcomers have shown that they have the ability to make an impact this season.

Derrick Caracter might not be in the starting lineup when the Louisville Cardinals travel to Ottawa to play three games this weekend, but the talented freshman forward has certainly made his mark in recent practices.

Considered one of the elite high school talents in the country, the 6'9 Caracter figures to be an integral part of the Louisville team this season – that is if he continues to shed weight and get in better playing shape.

"He has a lot of terrible habits to break to be a great player," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said Wednesday. "He doesn't guard anybody and doesn't even attempt to move his feet and play defense – he doesn't know how to do it. But if he proceeds to get down to his weight and play defense he's probably the most dominating high school basketball player I've ever had."

Caracter arrived at U of L tipping the scales at 320 pounds. He dropped about 25 pounds so far and his coach wants him to continue shedding the unnecessary weight.

"It's amazing what he can do at 295 pounds," Pitino said. "I can't imagine what he'll be able to do at 275 because he is unguardable in the low-post, he's a terrific passer and a great ball handler. He'll do some things on the break handling the basketball that are amazing for a player his size."

Saddled with a bad reputation coming out of high school for a shaky work ethic and questionable attitude, Pitino had nothing but positive things to say about Caracter.

"He's very coachable and he's a great kid," Pitino said. "He just has some bad habits to be broken. He came in 320 pounds, he's lost 25 and he has 20 to go. Let's face it. If Scotty Davenport and Marvin Menzies can do it, I'm sure he can do it too."

Derrick Caracter has dropped 25
pounds since arriving at U of L
earlier this summer.

Caracter, according to his new coach, has been nearly unstoppable around the basket. Though he's struggled with his stamina and running the court.

"You can't move him," sophomore small forward Terrence Williams said.

"He reminds me of a 6'8 ½ Charles Barkley," Pitino said. "He's unbelievably athletic. Sometimes I think he's going to tear down the rim."

For Caracter, two-a-day practices for the past week have been a crash course in Pitino 101.

"He has worked harder this week than he has in his life," Pitino said. "I never take him out – I let him play the whole time. He's sticking with it and showing a great attitude. He's had six or seven years of doing things the wrong way. He's learning how to eat different, sleep different. Everything is all new to him."


Four Louisville freshmen have gotten their feet wet during the past week. While Caracter will see considerable playing time this season, and 6'2 Edgar Sosa is battling sophomore Andre McGee for the starting job at point guard, two other newcomers, 6'9 Earl Clark and 6'3 Jerry Smith, also figure to make an impact.

Clark, a McDonald's All-American, appears to be feeling his way around after arriving at U of L earlier this month.

"Earl Clark has no concept of how to play college basketball," Pitino said. "But he's very talented."

Smith, the player of the year in Wisconsin last season, has made his mark as a defender and outside shooter.

"Jerry, for a freshman, tries very hard at the defensive end," Pitino said. "Jerry is probably the most ready physically to play as a freshman and he's a surprisingly good shooter for a freshman."

The four newcomers have impressed their more experienced teammates.

"They like to work hard and they have a goal in mind," Palacios said of the freshmen. "I'm very impressed with them because they like to work hard. If they don't know something they ask and learn it very quick."

Terrence Williams provides a brief scouting report.

"I call Earl ‘smooth' because he's quiet," Williams said. "He just gets the job done. I call Derrick Caracter ‘Shaq' but he can shoot. Jerry plays the best defense out of all of them. Sosa is a great point and the most ready to play right now. I think they'll add a lot to the team."

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