Knowles playing bigger role this season

Preston Knowles got his second start of the basketball season Saturday as University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino shook up his starting lineup against UAB.

The 6-foot-1 sophomore guard from Winchester, who graduated from George Rogers Clark County High School, responded with eight points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in 20 minutes in the Cardinals' 82-62 victory.

As a freshman Preston Knowles made a name for himself with his hustle and hard-nosed defense. He played in 31 games, but did not start in any of them, on his way to averaging 2.5 points per game (2.7 in Big East games) and shooting 48.5 percent from the field (54.5 percent in the Big East).

This season Knowles is averaging 6.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. He is also second on the team in steals (14) and tied for second in three -pointers made (14).

He got his first start of the season in UofL's loss to Western Kentucky, but his best game of the season, by far, came against Austin Peay on Dec. 13. Coming off the bench Knowles scored 21 points in 21 minutes of action, making 8-for-11 shots (including 4 of 5 three-pointers) while also recording five rebounds and three steals.

(AP) spoke with Knowles after the UAB game, here's what he had to say:

Q: How did it feel to get the start Saturday?

A: "It was good to start. I guess coach wanted me to start because I've been playing well enough to start, but if I start or not it really doesn't matter. Just like coach says, it just depends on who finishes the game. It just depends on how I do when I come in there and contribute. If I come in there and come off the bench and contribute well, instead of doing bad starting, I'd rather come off the bench."

Q: How has this season been for you?

A: "It's alright I guess, because I'm working hard offensively. My body's been kind of messed up lately, I've got a (left) foot injury now, other times it's been my foot and leg. Body-wise I'm not all there, but I'm still trying to bring it defensively, that's still my mindset. Coach is giving me a little bit more freedom, making shots and trying to make plays, but I have to get back (to concentrating) on my defensive effort because too many people are going by our guards. Last year if the main players were the guards we did a good job of stopping them, (but) this year our guards kind of let up on the defensive end a little bit, because their guards are doing better than they are supposed to be. So I have to take that more into consideration, getting back in shape, getting my body right, so I can stop their main player."

Q: What about your injuries this season? In particular the back injury that kept you out of practice some in early December and limited your playing time in games against Indiana State (nine minutes) and Ohio (eight minutes).

A: First it was my back, then my back feels good, then it's one of my knees. Then my knees was good, then it came from my foot. I'm just ready for my whole body to be okay."

"I injured my back against Western, I think I went up to try and block a shot or something and it felt like I pulled something on my right side...I didn't practice for like two days and plus (Coach Pitino) said that (Reginald) Delk did a really good job so he was going to play him more at the two spot, which is, that's totally understandable, if you don't practice, you don't play."

Q: What are you trying to do this season as opposed to last season?

A: "For me to get in the game last year I had to defend, because we had so many (scorers), David Padgett, Tello (Palacios), Earl (Clark), (Edgar) Sos(a), Jerry (Smith), my job was to come in and play defense, whatever I had to do to get on the court that's what I was going to do.

"I'm just trying to get better offensively, just try to contribute just a little bit more, let my teammates, they have confidence in me, let them have even more confidence in me handling the rock, because they have trust in me defensively. Everything that I'm weak at I try to improve on. Last year it was strictly defense, a little bit of offense. This year I want it to be more offense, like okay I've got to work on my left hand or shooting or coming off screens. Every year I just ask people to see what I need to improve on, they tell me and that's what I've been trying to work on.

"Last year (Pitino) had us write down all the stuff that we thought we needed help on and we gave him a card and he told us exactly what we needed to work on. This year with me in practice it's turnovers and left hand and being under control, so that's what I be trying to work on."

Q: What are your goals for this season?

A: "Team-goal wise, just to do good, get a Big East championship, go to the Final Four and give our team the potential to win a championship. Individually, just try to come in and get better skills-wise, like handling (the ball), shooting and being a point guard because I might be moving to that position next year, so I have a lot of worked to do, as opposed to playing the two- guard."

Q: After the UNLV game you've got a game against Kentucky, what's that like for you since you are from the state?

A: "I've never liked UK personally. I would never go to UK, I've never been a fan of their's, so to me, honestly, it's just another game. I think it's more for the fans, and for the people in the community, in general, as opposed to me. I just want to get the W, that's all that matters."

Q: The fans really seem to respond to you and your hard play, what about that?

A: "I just go out there and try and play my heart out. People respect that if you go out there, give it your all, play hard, especially in the community in Louisville people come up to me. They don't come up to me and say, 'I love your offense,' it's truly special when people come up to you and say, 'You're a great defensive player,' cause not too many are getting popular off defense these days, it's mostly about scoring. So when people come up to you and be like, 'I love the way you play defense, I love your passion, I love your effort,' that tells you something like, dang, I'm working hard."

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