Rick Pitino gives a summer update on the team

Photo: Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Photo: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press

Rick Pitino met with the media on Wednesday afternoon to give a summer update on the team. It’s only July, and there wasn’t any breaking news, but it sure was nice to hear Coach talk some hoops and about this year’s team! I expected it to be about a 20 minute press conference, but it ended up being just over 45! You can click here to watch the video of the press conference from CourierJournal.com. Below, I will give you the key notes from it…

The new Pelican…

-Pitino started out by talking about Russ Smith. He said that Russ wasn’t pleased with dropping to the 2nd round in the NBA Draft, and wanted to prove people wrong. Instead, Pitino said he should prove people right, and that’s the people that believe in him.

-Also with Russ, he got a guaranteed contract from the Pelicans. That is huge news, as second round picks have to make the team and are not guaranteed a spot just by getting drafted.

-Pitino said that 5 different NBA teams told him that when other guards were coming to workouts for the team, they asked if Russ Smith was going to be there because they didn’t want to workout against him. LOVE IT!

On Wayne Blackshear…

-“I don’t want to get my hopes too high, but this is the best that Wayne has looked in a long time. It has finally gotten through to him that the sand is running out in the hour glass. He has dedicated himself more in a short period of time than he has in 3 years combined. I am real excited about the way he has dedicated himself.”

-Pitino later said that something Wayne has been doing differently on the court is punishing people with his body when he drives. Says he used to just be a spot up player.

On Montrezl Harrell…

-“Montrezl has come back emotionally maturing as a leader, something that was the only thing missing in his game, besides foul shooting. And he emotionally is a leader that is leading positively and we’re all very excited to see that.”

-More on Montrezl: “I don’t want to see him get jump-shot happy, because he has improved his jump-shot. I want to see him get to the foul line a lot. I want to see him rebound 10 or 11 per game. He is on top of his game right now.”

-Montrezl doesn’t have to show he is the toughest guy on the court. He needs to lead now.

-The day that Montrezl decided he was coming back, he texted Pitino at 7:30 in the morning and said he was going pro. Two hours later, he texted and said he was staying.

On Chris Jones…

-Pitino said they have been trying for a long time to get Chris Jones to lose 10 pounds, and he finally has and they are proud of him. “Chris Jones is as good as any guard that I’ve coached, from a speed and quickness standpoint.”

On Quentin Snider…

-He says that Quentin Snider is the most ready (freshman) from a physical standpoint. “He’s got to get in a little better shape. But offensively he’s ready to play. Defensively he’s not, so that’s what we’re working on right now.” He said that Snider is also ready from an emotional standpoint to play.

Jaylen Johnson not on campus yet…

-Incoming freshman Jaylen Johnson is not on campus yet. “He has an academic situation where he’s fine, but because there were consolidations at his high school with everybody coming in, the high school is just getting the stuff (paperwork) in a lot slower. Unfortunately he’s going to be behind everybody else because of that.”

Two seven-footers…

-Anas Mahmoud will likely redshirt. “He’s got very good skills for a seven-footer. He’s very smart. He’s an engineer student.” He says he picks up on things quickly and is a good player, but he just doesn’t think that Anas can put on enough weight before the season starts.

-Matz Stockman is not on campus yet. He is waiting for his Visa to get approved.

On his own future…

-“I think because of the players the last 4 years, I could go a long time. I think my passion and enthusiasm is better at 61 than it was at 31. And I had very good passion back then. But I think it’s the players the last 4 years that have enhanced that passion. It’s not me, it’s them. They stir my drink because they are so enthusiastic, they’re so willing to learn, they have such a great attitude that I feel like I’m 31.”

Other team notes…

-“The positives are we have a lot of talent and size. The negative is we’ve got to get guys ready much quicker than ever before in my tenure as a basketball coach, because of the schedule.”

-The two biggest improvements on the team are clearly Akoy Agau and Mangok Mathiang. He says Akoy is a different person physcially, emotionally, and mentally. Mangok has gotten bigger physically. He hasn’t really put on weight, but he is “muscle bound” and about 5% body fat.

-Anton Gill has improved. Terry Rozier will have a breakout year.

-Assistant coach Kenny Johnson has lost 65 pounds since joining the staff IN APRIL! WOW!

-He named 5 guys who have “been through it all”, so are they the starters right now? Chris Jones, Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear, Montrezl Harrell, and Mangok Mathiang.

-When talking about developing the bench, he says they need 4 or 5 guys that are ready to back up those guys. They think Anton and Akoy are ready.

-“We think Shaqquan (Aaron) is ready to play right now, but physically he’s not.” He says they have to get him up to his weight that he told them he was at.

-He expects to get some commitments in the month of July. Well that’s exciting!

-Pitino did not want to play against his son Richard and Minnesota. He left that up to him, but he did not want to play it.

-He says that Chris Jones and Terry Rozier are ready to take on bigger roles now that Russ Smith is gone. Sometimes you don’t know what you are supposed to do when you play alongside Russ because with his abilities, you just defer to him. Now they are ready to show what they can do.

-Of the three walk-ons (David Levitch, Dillon Avare, and Trent Gilbert), Gilbert is the only one ready to play right now. The other two have to continue to get stronger. All three are capable of helping the team in practice.

On former Cards…

-Pitino is in favor of Luke Hancock taking advantage of his business opportunities here in town rather than going overseas.

-He says you have to be disciplined if you play overseas and save 80% of your earnings so you can have a decent living when you come back home.

-With that discipline, he says that Larry O’Bannon, Kyle Kuric, and Juan Palacios all have it.

-He believes Stephan Van Treese is signing with a team in Germany and is trying to get a passport now. He hopes they understand over there that “when he gets a rebound, he’s not going back up with it.”

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