BOZICH | Five Non-Katina storylines as Louisville opens its bask - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Five Non-Katina storylines as Louisville opens its basketball season

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Rick Pitino's team is not ranked in the pre-season Top 25 for the first time in five seasons. Rick Pitino's team is not ranked in the pre-season Top 25 for the first time in five seasons.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- On Opening Day you get to pretend that another spectacular season is on the way at the University of Louisville.

The current scandalous headlines, the Cards’ lack of experienced talent and other issues suggest this season will be considerably more challenging than last season, 2014 or certainly 2013.

Larry Wilder, Katina Powell’s attorney, said on Thursday that his client planned to talk to the NCAA about her tales of prostitutes and strip shows that have surrounded the program for the last six weeks.

Rick Pitino’s young team is missing from the Associated Press pre-season Top 25 for the first time in five seasons and only the second time since 2007. The Cards’ two-player recruiting class was solid, but not one of his best.

This season, the one that will begin Friday at 7 p.m. against Samford in the KFC Yum! Center, is likely to end up a sideshow to how Pitino, U of L administrators and the players navigate the non-stop noise.

But it’s Opening Day. And Opening Day is a day to pretend and embrace the optimism that every Division I program embraces on the second Friday in November.

Here are the Five Most Interesting Non-Katina Things Rick Pitino said on the eve of the Cards’ opening game:

1. Pitino has no sense of how this team will perform.

“It wouldn't surprise me to see us in the Final Four, it wouldn't surprise me to see us have a good season,” he said.  “I have no idea what we have.

“All I know is we have an incredible attitude and I don't know where certain things will come from. But I do know these guys are a work in progress and every day is a lot of fun for me as a coach and teacher because they give me so much.

“Tomorrow starts off the season. We have four years of, I think, outstanding play to live up to. Can we do it is the big question? If you believe in people like I believe in this team, I believe it will be done. But we're going to go through some pains along the way because our growing pains are going to be very large.

“I won’t say I’m nervous. I’m very apprehensive. You just don’t know. You’ve got Montrezl Harrell coming back. You’ve got Terry Rozier coming back, you have this guy coming back, you know exactly what to expect.

“Even though I know Damion (Lee) is very good and Trey (Lewis) is very good, they’re going to step out in front of 22,000 people tomorrow and regardless of the fact that they’ve been out there, their adrenaline ...

“I try to tell Trey this all the time. Emotion can be a negative. Passion can be a positive. Emotion will wear off. Passion will not. Stay within yourself. Don’t get too hyped up or you know you’re going to be out of gas in a short period of time.”

2. Pitino said the Cards will block shots. After that? Good question.

“I know we're a good shot blocking team,” Pitino said. “I know that. The other facets I still don't know.

“I know we're a little weak in the passing department, especially with our frontcourt. That's probably our biggest weakness. Our biggest strength is shot blocking; what lies in between right now I don't know. We'll know a little bit more tomorrow.”

3. The Louisville starting lineup is unlikely to be the finishing lineup.

U of L’s media notes for the Samford game list a lineup of Lee and Anas Mahmoud at forward, Chinanu Onuaku at center and Lewis and Quentin Snider at guard. But Pitino said on Thursday that he expected freshman forward Deng Adel to start.

“I think you've been around me long enough to know starting doesn't matter,” Pitino said. “Like I told Quentin, ‘You're not going to start against Bellarmine, but don't think you're not one of the top five players,’ and he had the most minutes played and he didn't start.

“I think without question Mango (Mathiang) is the best player on the team in terms of what he brings to the table, and he doesn't start. So in terms of lineup changes, I think that's irrelevant. Which nine guys play is relevant.”

4. Pitino said that he has exchanged text messages with former Cardinal forward Kyle Kuric, who continues to recover from brain surgery in Barcelona Spain.

"If any of our prayers were answered on a special day, it was yesterday,” Pitino said.

“We’re all so excited. I texted back and forth with Kyle. I can’t put into words how happy we are that he is on the road to recovery because for a while there it was a very scary thing, most important his family and his secondary family which is all of us.”

5. Pitino said that he was thrilled to sign forward V.J. King from Fairfax, Va., and guard Frankie Hughes of suburban Cleveland. He said that neither player wavered from committing to the Cards despite the issues created by Powell’s book – “Breaking Cardinal Rules.”

“I didn’t hear any of that (possible wavering), but I don’t subscribe to the things that you subscribe to,” Pitino said. “From day one, I don’t think (King) thought about anything except the University of Louisville.

“We’ve appreciated his loyalty. We’ve appreciated the way Frankie came in and it wasn’t even a question about it. I think parents really do a lot of research about what we’re all about.

“You guys have been around us a long, long time and I’m not even sure you know what we’re all about. But the parents know what you’re about because they speak to other parents. They pay attention to academics; they pay attention to what you’re all about.

“Regardless of whether there’s a crisis or not, they understand how we’re dealing with it.”

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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