Louisville's senior point guard has been an enigmatic figure in the UofL lineup for three years. He's had plenty of shining moments – like a 31-point effort as a freshman against Texas A&M in the NCAA's and his game-winning danger against UK last season. But there have been plenty of low points for the inconsistent Sosa, too – none lower than when Pitino suggested last season that he might be better off transferring to another program.
Sosa has been in and out of Pitino's doghouse throughout his career, but finally seems ready to embrace his role as Louisville's 'playmaker.' Pitino has wanted Sosa to be more of a distributor than a scorer – something the senior guard from the Bronx has struggled with most of his career.
"I just want to be a floor general," Sosa said. "That's what Coach Pitino wants from me. He wants me to set the table for other guys and get them going before I get myself going."
Sosa turned the corner late last season, handing out 15 assists in the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals lose three key parts, including first round NBA Draft picks Terrence Williams and Earl Clark, from last season's 31-6 team that fell to Michigan State in the regional finals, but Sosa said the Cardinals are hungry to defend their Big East title and get back to the NCAA Tournament this season.
"We lost three key guys but we have a lot coming in and a lot returning," Sosa said. "It all starts with our coach. Coach Pitino pushes us every day in practice to be the best that we can be."
Louisville's strength the past two season's has been a deep and experienced front court. This season, the Cardinals back court will determine how good the team will be. Sosa and senior guard Jerry Smith will lead the way. They'll have plenty of help from junior Preston Knowles, a tenacious defensive specialist who was one of the Big East leaders in three-point shooting accuracy last season, and explosive freshman Peyton Siva, a McDonald's All-American point guard last year.
"He's [Siva] a true point guard – he's extremely fast and athletic," said Sosa. "I think he's going to have a great freshman year and be able to step in and play in the Big East right away."
Sosa is also excited about the return of Samardo Samuels, who was selected to the preseason All-Big East second team. Samuels averaged 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds as a freshman last season.
"He's a monster," Sosa said. "He put in a lot of work this summer and it's showing in practice. He's dominant in practice and I think he's going to have one hell of a year."
ESPN's Andy Katz sat down with Rick Pitino at the Big East Media Day in New York Wednesday and asked the Louisville coach what impact the Karen Sypher trial would have on him this season. No date for trial has been set at this point.
"There will be no disruptions," Pitino said. "If there were any disruptions it happened during the tournament last year. So there will be no disruptions going down the road. This is the U.S. Attorney against a person. It has nothing to do with me. I'm just a witness for a few hours. I will not miss a single thing."
Pitino also talked about Jerry Smith and Terrence Jennings, who plead guilty to resisting law enforcement Monday and were sentenced to one-year of probation and 40 hours community service. Smith, the Cardinals senior captain, and Jennings, one of the league's best shot blockers last year, won't miss any game time, though that doesn't mean they've gotten off lightly for their actions.
"I handled that situation the same way I have for 37 years," Pitino said. "I know what the young men did and know where they made their mistakes. I've counciled them and I've busted their tails pretty strong. Suspensions compared to what we do to the players would be the easy way out. They would love to be suspended for a game or two compared to what I've done to them."