Wayne Blackshear has yet to deliver double-figures in back-to-back games for Louisville this season.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – No need to make it tricky. This is the essence of what Rick Pitino said about his University of Louisville basketball team as the Cardinals prepare for a visit by Western Kentucky Saturday:
Chris Jones won't play – sprained right wrist.
Terry Rozier will start in Jones' backcourt spot. Rozier and Tim Henderson will play more. The absence of Jones for at least one and maybe two games will open about 26 minutes.
Wayne Blackshear must play better.
The Jones' situation is a practice injury that will be trickier to navigate because Jones is right-handed. Rozier certainly appears capable of handling more time. His shooting (36.2) needs work but you have to like a freshman guard who has 19 assists and two turnovers.
Henderson showed what he could do in the Final Four. He's earned lifetime adoration – and the chance. Anton Gill seems more likely than Kevin Ware to get the call as the fourth guard when you remember that Ware only played one minute during the Cardinals last game against Louisiana-Lafayette.
The backcourt situation will be fine. Even with Jones on the Cardinals' bench, Western (5-3) does not project as a team that can win in the KFC Yum! Center.
Blackshear is the guy I'm going to watch as the Cardinals finally start to play more demanding competition. Every season there seems to be a guy that Pitino keeps asking for more, more, more. Blackshear is that guy this season.
And he should be that guy. He's capable of being a guy who can give Louisville major points, solid ball-handling and reasonable defense. Pitino believes it. I believe it. Blackshear has to believe it.
"It's a personality thing with every player," Pitino said. "Like Montrezl Harrell has a dominating personality. Wayne's a very shy person by nature and that's the way he steps on the court at times.
"And I told him, just like (he told former Card) Kyle Kuric. I told him he had to change that personality when you cross over those lines. Kyle finally did. Wayne has to take that next step as well. Wayne's got to be the difference-maker on our basketball team because it's not going to come from Mango (Mathiang, the center)."
Consistency has eluded Blackshear. He has yet to deliver double-figure scoring in back-to-back games this season. The entire world remembers that Blackshear did not contribute a point, rebound, block, steal or assist in 17 minutes against North Carolina.
He's fourth on the team in minutes, but sixth in rebounding. Even Russ Smith and Jones, the smaller guards, have more offensive rebounds than Blackshear, who has four. So does Luke Hancock, who has not been healthy. That won't work for a 6-foot-5 forward with above average athleticism.
Here are some equally wacky numbers from Blackshear. He's been great at the foul line, making 86.2 percent (25 of 29). Nobody on the team has been better from the three-point line – 16 of 36, better than 44 percent.
But inside the arc?
Don't ask. Blackshear is making less than 27 percent of his two-point field goal attempts (7 for 26). How is it possible to be that much better behind the line?
"He's not getting any layups," Pitino said. "Generally when you see guys shooting 68 percent, those are power forwards or centers who can't shoot. He's not getting very many easy 2-point shots."
There are certainly times to be Mr. Nice Guy. Saturday at noon is not one of those times. Is it difficult for Blackshear to summon the necessary nastiness?
"It's not tough," Blackshear said. "I know what he means about that. When I step on the court, I try to kill my opponent every time I step on the court.
"I think he knows I can do that, get in that mindset, when I want to, and he wants me to have that killer mode all the time. Not really (hard). At this point, it doesn't matter; I'm going to have to start doing it."
Pitino gave Blackshear another pep talk on the subject Friday after the player was a guest during a taping of Pitino's TV show. Pitino has mentioned the topic several times. He's likely to keep mentioning it until Blackshear develops the edge and the consistency.
With Chris Jones on the sidelines, this would be a good time.