Pitino wants to avoid sophomore jinx

Check out the preseason basketball publications and you'll likely find Louisville ranked in the Top 5. That's because Rick Pitino has a talent-laden team that's fueled by a super-talented, four-man sophomore class. Can the Cards avoid the dreaded ‘Sophomore Jinx?'

Check out the preseason basketball publications and you'll likely find Louisville ranked in the Top 5. That's because Rick Pitino has a talent-laden team that's fueled by a super-talented, four-man sophomore class.

Last year, point guard Edgar Sosa, shooting guard Jerry Smith, power forward Earl Clark and center Derrick Caracter helped guide Louisville to a 24-10 record, a second place Big East finish and the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Now, Pitino expects even bigger things from his team, that is if Sosa, Smith, Clark and Caracter can avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx.


Jerry Smith
"I talked to the players just yesterday about the sophomore jinx," Pitino said. "I asked them if they knew what the sophomore jinx was. And they all had their version of what they felt it was. And I said, ‘you have to understand that it's true, it's been there and you have to understand what it is and how to make sure you don't fall prey to it.'"

We've all heard about the dreaded sophomore jinx but what exactly is it?

"The sophomore jinx is when they have a terrific freshman year and they think they've arrived on the scene, they embrace success and they don't have a great sophomore season because they embraced (success) instead of working," Pitino said.

What do the players think about sophomore jinx?

"We've had a lot of speeches about that," Smith said. "He basically just wants to keep us level-headed and not get a fat head because we had a decent year last year. Those types of things can set the team back. I think his message resonates with us very well."

"Me and my classmates aren't looking forward to a sophomore jinx," said the 6'8 Clark. "We're just coming in and working hard every day and trying to win every game we can."

Caracter, who said he still needs to drop 5-10 pounds, doesn't think the jinx will affect he and his classmates.


Edgar Sosa
"I can see where Coach P is coming from and I believe in it but I don't think that's a problem with us," Caracter said. "We've got to stay hungry and humble and not listen to all the hype and just go out there and want it more than anybody else.

Pitino sounds as though he agrees with Caracter's assessment. After all, if the sophomore's get a little big headed or lackadaisical in practice, Pitino can always send them to the treadmill or turn up the intensity in practice to bring them back down to earth and regain their focus.

"I think this is a great group," Pitino said. "We knew we had a special class but I think it's even better than we knew because I think there's so much improvement left in all of those guys."

What Pitino wants to see from his talented sophomore class is continued improvement and improved consistency on both ends of the court.

"Sosa wasn't a McDonald's All-American. Jerry Smith wasn't a McDonald's All-American," Pitino said. "But those two guys were as good as any freshman backcourt in the country last year by the time the season ended.

"Can they now take it from there and improve? Neither guy was very good at the defensive end last year – Jerry because he was always in foul trouble and bumping someone and not playing position defense and Sosa because he was not a good defensive player. Can they now get their defense to catch up to their offense?

"Can Earl Clark evolve into a better basketball player from where he left off? Can Caracter…..when Derrick Caracter was a part of our team and I took David Padgett out we didn't lose anything. And that was big because we didn't go into (scoring) draughts when Derrick was in there. Those four guys can they now take it to the next level?"

That's the big question for the 2007-08 Louisville Cardinals. Can the sophomores take their games to the next level? If they do, the Cardinals will likely reach their vast potential and could party deep into the post-season.


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