Just a bit on each returning player:
• Russ Smith, 6-0, Sr., G: All-Big East first team and the Cardinals’ leading scorer last season at 18.7 ppg. Named as a preseason All-American after being named to the third team last season. Averaged 22.7 points in the NCAA tournament with a high of 31 against Oregon. Among the nation’s leaders in steals. Spent the past summer playing with an All-Star team in Europe. Started 37 games last season.
“I’m ready for the season to start,” Smith said. “Being named an All-American is quite an honor. In high school, I would see guys get that and wonder what it would be like. But I’m not about ‘tags’. I would just like to play for another national championship. I’ve been here going on four years — the Big East titles, two Final Fours and a national championship. It’s been a great time.”
• Hancock, 6-6, Sr., F: Named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Scored 22 points and hit all five of his 3-point attempts against Michigan in the title game. Had 20 points against Wichita State in the national semifinals. Currently suffering from a strained left Achilles tendon and should be returning to practice shortly.
• Stephan Van Treese, 6-9, Sr., F: A top reserve front-line player who has been limited somewhat by injuries. Will be heavily depended on for rebounding this season. Last season, averaged 11.2 rebounds per 40 minutes played. Referred to as “Big Hustle.”
• Tim Henderson, 6-2, Sr., G: Coach Pitino refers to him as the top walk-on in the country. Hit back-to-back 3-pointers against Wichita State, allowing the Cardinals to overcome a 12-point second-half deficit and advance to the championship game. Was specifically mentioned by President Obama during the Cardinals’ White House visit.
• Kevin Ware, 6-2, Jr., G: After what happened during last season’s NCAA tournament, there are only a handful of people who do not know about Ware and the horrible injury (broken leg) suffered against Duke during the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.
But in the Cardinals’ win over Pikeville, Ware made an appearance late in the game and finished with six points and four rebounds in 10 minutes of court action. Ware hit the first shot he took — a 3-pointer
“I just wanted to get him some minutes just so he could get over the jitters in case we need him against Charleston,” Pitino said.
“I was a little nervous really,” Ware said. “But when he called my number, I was ready to go in. It’s been 220 days now. After that first shot went in, everything was back to normal. I’m happy.”
• Behanan, 6-6, Jr., F: All-NCAA tournament selection who will start the season on indefinite suspension. Had a double-double against Michigan in the national championship game with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Had what was voted the “Dunk Of The Year” against DePaul. Started 37 games last season.
• Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, Jr., F: Started 34 games last season and was awarded the prestigious 2013 NCAA Elite 89 Award presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average (3.55 in communication). Had a season-high 19 points against Rutgers despite playing just 14 minutes.
• Montrezl Harrell, 6-8, So., F: Came into his own during the NCAA tournament and will more than likely break into the starting lineup this season. Scored a season-high 20 points against Syracuse in the Big East championship game. Also earned a gold medal over the summer with the USA Basketball U-19 team in the Czech Republic.
• Mangkok Mathiang, 6-10, RS Fr., C: Will be looked upon heavily to step in for the departed Dieng after red-shirting last season. How he can improve his rebounding skills will determine a lot of the Cardinals success this season.