WATCH NOW - Media Day Interview with Preston Knowles
WATCH NOW - Media Day Interview with Rick Pitino
The Big Picture: Last season, the Cardinals posted their eighth straight 20-win season when they finished 20-13 overall and 11-7 in the BIG EAST. Coach Rick Pitino has to deal with the challenge of replacing four starters, including his top three scorers from last year. His top returning scorer is junior forward Jared Swopshire who averaged only 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. But history shows that it might be a mistake to predict a big dropoff for the Cardinals. In their five seasons as a member of the BIG EAST, Louisville owns a 59-27 regular-season record in league play, second only to Pittsburgh’s 60-26 mark. This year, Pitino welcomes six newcomers and plans to speed up the tempo a little with his young squad.
Who’s Back: Swopshire made 20 starts last season and assumed a more prominent role as the year progressed. Guard Preston Knowles figures to take one of the starting guard spots. He averaged 7.2 points, but is known as much for his defensive prowess. Knowles started eight games last season. Forward Terrence Jennings is another player who seems ready to take on a bigger role. The 6-9 junior started 10 of the final 14 games of the season. For the year, he averaged 5.1 points and 3.4 rebounds. Peyton Siva was the backup point guard last year and averaged 3.9 ppg while averaging 11.3 minutes. Forward Rakeem Buckles saw about the same amount of playing time as Siva and averaged 3.8 points and 3.4 rebounds. In the Cardinals’ NCAA game against California, Buckles scored a career-high 20 points on 10-of-11 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. Junior Kyle Kuric (4.0) and sophomore Mike Marra (3.1) have shown flashes of 3-point shooting excellence. Junior forward George Goode and sophomore Stephan Van Treese saw limited duty last year in the frontcourt.
Who’s Missing: Center Samardo Samuels declared for the NBA after only two seasons with Louisville. Last year, he was tops on the Cardinal squad with averages of 15.3 points and 7.0 rebounds. The three starting guards have departed. Edgar Sosa was second in scoring at 13.1 ppg and first in assists at 4.6. Jerry Smith averaged 8.3 ppg while Reginald Delk’s scoring mark was 6.4.
Storylines: The Cardinals have some holes to fill, but appear to have candidates ready to emerge as quality BIG EAST performers. Pitino has said he wants to play at a faster pace this season on both ends of the floor and have the defense create scoring opportunities. In addition to choices from the group of returnees, Pitino and the Cardinals hope to get clearance from the NCAA for Roburt Sallie, a 6-5 transfer from Memphis, to be able to play this season. He is Memphis’ career leader in 3-point shooting and can play the small forward or shooting guard. Six freshmen will try to earn Pitino’s attention. They are: guards Elisha Justice, Chris Smith, Russ Smith (no relation), swingman Justin Coleman, redshirt Richie Phares and center Gorgui Dieng.