The Louisville Cardinal

Takeaways from Rick Pitino’s conference on Adel’s return

By Dalton Ray–

The men’s basketball program received great news when Deng Adel announced he will return for his junior season. The wing is expected to step into the star role on next season’s team, averaging 12.1 points and 4.5 rebounds as a sophomore.

Coach Rick Pitino held a press conference to discuss the big news. The Hall of Fame head coach addressed everything, from Adel’s return to why Russ Smith can’t make an NBA team. Here are some highlights:

Adel running the two

This was expected from most fans if Adel returned. In the press conference, Pitino said Adel will play a lot at the two-guard spot because of his abilities with shooting and defense.

With the anticipated emergence of VJ King, Adel will likely step into the starting line-up. His length will give him an advantage against opposing players, but his handling ability will need improvement for him to thrive in the position.

Dwayne Sutton saga?

Last season and all off-season, people around the basketball program preached Sutton’s skill in practice. One of the main reasons fans have calmed about Donovan Mitchell leaving is because of how much people have hyped up Sutton.

Ready for the bombshell? Pitino said Sutton’s not ready to play yet. Sure: it’s summer and he’ll have time to grow, but Sutton went from the practice star to not ready to play within months. Pitino added that Sutton is the most physical player on the team, but needs to play like it.

Pitino doesn’t want to touch the Jaylen Johnson situation

The biggest news out of left field this off-season is Johnson staying in the NBA Draft. The junior forward isn’t expected to be drafted, and will likely need to battle his way onto an NBA team through the G-League (formerly known as the D-League).

When asked if he expected to lose Johnson, Pitino took a long pause and said, “I thought it was best, what he did.”

This was Pitino’s shortest response during the conference. His answer makes it seem Johnson and Pitino didn’t have the best parting of ways. Johnson has yet to sign an agent, and this response questions whether Johnson would return to Louisville if he backs out of the draft.

“Freshman may start next season”

This is in quotes for a reason. Pitino said freshmen will be forced to play next season, which is expected after the Cards lost eight players. He continued that some freshman, namely Malik Williams, could start for U of L.

Pitino has a history of being hard on freshman because of his play style and emphasis on defense. It’s easy to say incoming freshman may start in May; but once the season rolls around, expect to hear a different story.

The rest

Pitino said Anas Mahmoud is nearly 230 lbs. His playing weight goal is 235 lbs.

According to Pitino, Mangok Mathiang is a second round draft choice and a great “11th or 12th player on any professional team.”

Pitino also said Russ Smith will make an NBA team if coaches can live with his mistakes.

Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal