Behanan will have to earn way back into Louisville lineup

Pretty impressive those 32 points, 16 rebounds and five steals that earned most valuable player honors for Chane Behanan in leading the University of Louisville basketball team to the NCAA’s West Regional championship last season.

Chane Behanan

Behanan had arrived, making him a big man on campus and throughout the community, and with all his buddies in Bowling Green and Cincinnati.

Pretty heady stuff for a freshman. Too much, apparently. Behanan will not be in the starting lineup when UofL plays the first exhibition game Thursday against Pikeville for what appears to have been a wasted summer. He will miss the opening game against Manhattan College with a one-game suspension.

The starting lineup will consist of Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock as forwards, Gorgui Dieng in the middle, and Peyton Siva and Russ Smith at the guard spots.

“Chane didn’t have the best summer in the world,” said Pitino during his Tuesday press conference. “He didn’t live in the gym like the rest of the guys. They celebrated for about a week, he (Behanan) had an extended period of time. He has some catching up to do.”

The coach has little doubt Behanan will be back to his old form soon. “Chane is going to get it back. I’ve got confidence in the young man.”

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Kevin Ware is also suspended for the Pikeville game, which might have been his first in a starting position. No explanation was forthcoming.

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Elisha Justice will return to the KFC Yum! Center with Pikeville in the exhibition game and will receive some special recognition, receiving his NCAA Final Four ring in a presentation before the game. Justice was hobbled by a variety of injuries last season and his playing status is uncertain. “We’re going to give him his ring whether he plays or not,” Pitino said.

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Pitino is uncertain whether Terrence Williams continues to have a future in the NBA. “Some players try to do too much and not do what they do best,” he said, indicating that T-Will had recently mentioned the possibility of playing basketball in China.

 

Kyle Kuric takes one for his team

Not sure what to make of Kyle Kuric being relegated to walk-on status. We were primed  for Kuric to have a great senior year.

Among the returning players, Kuric has made more highlight reels than all of his teammates combined. He’s been among the most consistent in shooting, rebounding and defending. Dunker of the year, great grades, leadership on and off the basketball court and involved in the community.

Yet University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino announced that Kuric, Chris Smith and Elisha Justice have had to give up their scholarships to become walk-ons, making room for five freshmen and a transfer.

I could see walk-on status maybe with Smith or Justice, but Kuric is a valuable commodity.

Don’t think it doesn’t hurt. It’s painful. These players have been knocked down a few notches. Gotta explain it to the family, the buddies, the girl friends. Accept new status in the basketball residence. Shut out the comments of fans, analysts, and message board drones.

We’re off to an early start on the mind games. The only way walk-on status is acceptable for Kuric is that it comes with an understanding that he will continue to see plenty, if not more, playing time in his senior season.

As Pitino noted, Kyle’s dad is a brain surgeon so paying for a year of college is not a worry for the Kuric family. Thankfully, Kyle seems to be the kind of individual who would take one for his team.

Next season will be disappointing if he’s not a major factor.

Elisha Justice at Louisville, a long way from Dorton

Elisha Justice (Photo by Menefee Seay)

Dorton, Ky. is a long way from Louisville.

Situated on the bend of a mountainous road in Pike County, about 1,090 feet above sea level. The town has about 3,200 residents, the median household income is $31,500, and the average house is valued at $60,000. Mining is the biggest source of income.

Elisha Justice calls Dorton home. Playing basketball was a welcome diversion, making a name for himself at Shelby Valley High School, making it possible to go elsewhere.

Dorton, Ky., just a few miles from the Virginia border to the east and Pippa Passes to the west.

Contrast that with where he is today, residing in one of the country’s 30 most populated cities, attending the University of Louisville with its 22,000 students, competing for playing time for a tradition-rich program that attracts more than 21,000 fans per game.

Elisha Justice is experiencing a culture shock of monumental proportions.

Add to that the fact that he’s playing for Rick Pitino, who is one of the game’s best known coaches. Also one of the game’s most unpredictable and most demanding coaches. If Louisville fans have difficulty figuring what Pitino is going to do next, consider what’s going on in Elisha’s mind.

What we know about Justice is that he grew up living and breathing basketball. His life revolves around the game, and probably always will. It defines him as others in Eastern Kentucky. He has a good three-point shot and he makes few mistakes on the court. He will do whatever coach tells him, sacrifice his personal and social life, anything to get better.

Some day soon, maybe not this season, Justice will have made the transition from Dorton to Louisville, from the mountains to the metro, and from a scared, uncertain kid, he will emerge as a player who has adjusted to the vast changes. Finally comfortable with himself and where he is, Justice will make significant contributions to the legacy of UofL basketball.

Really significant contributions.