Eric Crawford, Rick Bozich, Tom Lane, Pat Doney and Steve Andress weren’t nominated for any ESPY awards last night, but the WDRB Sports team has been doing some phenomenal work as of late. Columnist Eric Crawford caught up with Rick Pitino yesterday following the Cards two-hour summer practice. Below is an excerpt from Crawford’s article. You can read it in its entirety HERE.
His impression: “These guys are pretty much a push-button team right now in terms of picking things up quickly.”
That’s a phrase you haven’t heard all that often from Pitino during his tenure at U of L. There have been young teams that he had to coax up to speed, injuries that had to be accounted for, key players at times who haven’t picked up what he wanted them to do. To hear the phrase “push-button” from Pitino is significant.
He didn’t include Harrell in that description — but doesn’t expect that of a freshman he described as a “raw talent” and a “physical specimen.”
“Today was our longest practice, got in all two hours on one day, and it really helped me integrate Montrezl, and see what he needs to work on,” Pitino said.
“He’s a physical specimen, a legit 6-8 with a 7-4 wingspan, who hasn’t been taught a lot of offensive moves yet. We’re going to be spending a lot of time on his footwork, on his jab-step, on his back-to-the-basket game, and he’s going to get so much better because he doesn’t have this. So he’s just a raw talent who’s going to take off.”
“There were times when you could doubt Chane,” Pitino said. “Chane. Now I know he’s going to reach his potential because of ‘Trez pushing him every day. Montrezl wants to be on that court, and he knows to get on that court he’s got to knock Gorgui (Dieng) out or he’s got to knock Chane out, and he’s willing to do everything possible to do that, and it’s going to make those guys that much better.”
Here’s how comfortable Pitino is with what he saw. He left his guys with instructions to play less basketball — not more — because he doesn’t want them to develop bad habits to mar the kind of play he’s seeing right now.
“I told them that they have to have a plan every day,” Pitino said. “And here’s the plan. I said I don’t want you spending more than 45 minutes on the court. I want your legs to get a rest. I want you to put in a maximum of 45 minutes, but get a good 45 minutes. I said I don’t want you playing pickup basketball, because that’s how you regress. I said I’d rather you play on-on-one basketball, with these rules — games of five. If you play games of five you’re playing hard on offense, hard on defense, winners come on. Play no more than that. Anything more than that, you start to break down, you don’t guard, you don’t have your hands ready, you don’t play defense, you don’t really get after it offensively.
“So I’ve given them certain things to follow — improve your quickness, improve your strength and spend 45 minutes on your game each day.”
While recruit Terry Rozier making it this season remains a 50-50 proposition and Hancock being sidelined will set him back a bit, Pitino clearly likes what he has seen.
“It’ll be the same team in terms of attitude and style,” he said. “It’s just going to be a better team in terms of knowledge of the game.”