BOZICH | Rick Pitino's List of Concerns: NCAA, Aaron, Shooting, - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Rick Pitino's List of Concerns: NCAA, Aaron, Shooting, Buckeyes, Kentucky fans

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Four days after Thanksgiving, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino already has his list.

But it's not a Christmas List. It's a list of concerns about his team.

The Cardinals (5-0) play unbeaten Ohio State Tuesday at 9:35 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville's first appearance in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Here are the items that are worrying Pitino:

1. When, or even if, freshman wing Shaqquan Aaron will be available to play this season. Pitino said the NCAA is investigating Aaron's amateur status, not his academic standing. Aaron, who is 6 feet 7, has yet to play for Louisville this season.

Aaron played his freshman season at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. He left for Taft High in Woodland Hills, Calif, but did not play there. He finished his career at Ranier Beach High in Seattle, leading his team to the Class 3A title.

“It's been a very frustrating ordeal because the amateurism status is something I don't quite understand,” Pitino said.

“I am the opposite of most coaches. I sort of agree with the NCAA a lot and a lot of things they do. I couldn't disagree with them more on this case than with any player I've ever coached.

“This is a young man who is 165 pounds who wasn't a McDonald's all-American. He's a major project. So I don't understand the amateurism with this kid. If somebody's giving something, given a break because of this kid, they're from another country because he's not that type of basketball player …”

Aaron was not a McDonald's all-American, but he was ranked the 27th best player in the Class of 2014 by Scout.com and 30th by Rivals.

“Nobody would give something to get in favor for Shaqquan Aaron,” Pitino said. “It just doesn't work that way. I don't understand it. I disagree with the NCAA. I would just wish they would make a decision either way. He's already missed five games. He can't get these five games back right now.

“I don't know what the issue is. He's not involved so I don't know what the issue is. It makes no sense to me, this whole thing.”

2. His team's ongoing struggle passing the basketball. The Cards have more turnovers (64) than assists (59). A year ago Terry Rozier had 67 assists and 22 turnovers in limited playing time. This season Rozier has 10 assists and 10 turnovers.

“We're (usually) a high assist team,” Pitino said. “And we're not this year. So it is concerning me. I think that's leading to our bad shots.”

3. His team's wide-right shooting stroke – from the three-point line and the free throw line. The Cards have missed 79 of 104 three-pointers (24 percent) and 70 of 169 free throws (58.6 percent). Both numbers need to improve by at least 10 percentage points – and the competition is only starting to get more difficult for Louisville.

“Russ (Smith) was a great scorer and Luke (Hancock) was a great scorer and passer,” Pitino said. “Those are two big guys away. You're replacing them with guys who are turning the ball over too much.

4. The bench. Louisville's reserves are contributing 20.3 of the 77.2 points per game Louisville has scored. None of the Louisville subs are averaging more than 4.5 points per game. Against Cleveland State last week, the bench contributed 0 points – a first for a Pitino-coached team at U of L.

A year ago Rozier averaged 7 points off the bench.

5. The ability of Kentucky fans to get into the building. Pitino said that he believed that the atmosphere for the Ohio State game would be the best in the four-plus seasons of the KFC Yum! Center.

“We've had a lot of big games in the Yum! But I believe tomorrow's game will be the best atmosphere that we've had since the Yum Center! has been built.”

Including games the Cardinals have played against Kentucky?

Pitino said the atmosphere for the Kentucky game was no better than 10th on his list because as many as 5,000 UK fans usually make their way into the building.

“I don't think Kentucky's a great atmosphere, I really don't,” Pitino said. “There's 5,000 of them getting into our building. We got five getting into their building and they get 5,000.”

6. Ohio State is really good, winning their five games by an average of 30 points. Point guard Shannon Scott has 52 assists with only 11 turnovers while former Central High player D'Angelo Russell, a freshman, is leading the Buckeyes in scoring at 18 points per game.

“They're a great passing team and the get good shots inside,” Pitino said. “They get out on the break. They're a great three-point shooting team. They're one of the better offensive basketball teams in the country.”

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