Pitino Admits “It’s The Shoes” & Other Press Conference Takeaways

dunikcardMore often than one might suspect, during Rick Pitino’s out of season gabfests with the media, the U of L hoops mentor tends toward the loquacious.

Sometimes, when he’s really on a roll, you can see SID cringing a bit, as The Rick carries on. Such was the case today.

Pitino was asked about the Big Ten’s announced new policy to grant four year schollys to its student athletes, rather the norm, which is a year to year renewal situation. He said he thought it was more a PR move on that league’s part, that he didn’t really see it as an issue.

Following up, another scribe innocently inquired what issues Pitino thought were bigger?

Cue Mars Blackmon.

It is the shoes, after all.

Pitino eviscerated the situation that exists where shoe companies rule the future of most of the biggest high school players.

“I don’t like the shoe wars. It’s a factor (in recruiting).

“We need to get the shoe companies out of the lives of youngsters.”

Pitino took blame for Cardinal recruiting gaffes.

“I wasted a lot of time recruiting some players.

“I didn’t believe the control shoe companies have. I just believed that in the last couple of years.

Pitino talked about how he’s adjusted his recruiting targets in the recent, successful years. He spoke of doing homework before starting to recruit a player, learning how loyal a prepster might be to Nike or Under Armour.1

“We have to do our homework.”

He reiterated his long standing position that the NCAA should run the summer camps for high level high schoolers, not the shoe companies. He also admitted it’s not likely to happen.

* * * * *

Asked several times about the progress of the abundance of newcomers, Pitino seemed reluctant to talk about them.

He was reasonably doubtful emphatic that either Matz Stockman or Anas Mahmoud, both 7 footers, will play this season.

“You need patience with seven footers.”

6-10 Chinanu Onuaku apparently does fit in the plans. Pointing out that the center hasn’t reached his 18th birthday yet, Pitino raved about how he’s gotten himself in shape since the beginning of individual practices. “He’s become a specimen.”

He had kind words also for Quentin Snider, at least his offense at this juncture. And that he’d decreased his body fat from 13% to 7%.

He praised SF Shaqquan Aaron’s talent, but pointed out he needs to bulk up, work on his strength. He compared his weak physical condition to that of Francisco Garcia, when he arrived at U of L.

Jaylen Johnson just started practicing, because of an issue with tendonitis in one of his quads.

* * * * *

While the coach fretted about his bench — “it’s a question mark.” — he was upbeat about the starting five.

He called Chris Jones, “remarkable.” “He’s quick and strong like Mighty Mouse.”

Wayne Blackshear has been “terrific.”

Mango has improved his upper body strength, and is no longer “robotical” on offense.

Montrez has improved his 16 foot jumper.

He didn’t talk about Terry Rozier specifically, but did say of the backcourt contingent as group, “It is one of the best I’ve been around.”

* * * * *

Pitino stressed the importance of the upcoming intersquad scrimmages.2

“We need to work on our stamina.”

* * * * *

In a statement, which, taken out of context, shall give Matt Jones fodder for months, Pitino responded this way, when asked if he thought Kentucky’s second team was the second best team in the country?

“I could care less about Kentucky.”

He explained that he only concentrates on UK in advance of playing the Wildcats.

He also admitted he’s finally discovered how to deal with all the Big Blue fans who confront him in public. When one walks up and says, “I’m a Kentucky fan,” he simply responds, “Go Cats.”

“They’ll look at me, then walk away, and I can get on with eating my dinner.”

His last words: “Go Cards!”

— Seedy K

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