Card Chronicle reported on Tuesday afternoon that Rick Pitino had released his probable starting lineup for opening night against Manhattan, and to the surprise of many, Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear will first see action as subs.
However, Pitino’s announcement should come as much less of a surprise than it did.
Pitino’s frustration, if you will, with Behanan’s work ethic has been well documented this off-season, and the Louisville coach told the Card Chronicle the following as an explanation for Behanan’s exclusion from the lineup: “Chane didn’t have the best summer in the world. He didn’t live in the gym like the rest of the guys. He’ll catch up.”
Behanan finished his freshman campaign on a strong note, averaging 13.2 points and eight rebounds during Louisville’s run to the Final Four and earning the West Regional MVP. But, clearly, he did not put in the extra work this summer to improve his game, to maintain that level of play throughout an entire season.
Montrezl Harrell, who took Behanan’s spot at the four, has a reputation of a hard worker, so early on, Pitino chose to reward the player who exerted more energy and effort. Pitino said he thinks Harrell’s insertion into the lineup will help motivate Behanan to work harder.
As for Blackshear, the sophomore could still break out after missing most of last season. In fact, he could be well-suited as a sixth man.
Luke Hancock is an established, smart player, the type you want on the floor as much as possible. But Blackshear is more potent offensively, and when he replaces Hancock or someone else five minutes into the game, he could give Louisville a big boost off the bench. Pitino did say, however, that Blackshear also did not work as hard as his teammates during the summer, indicating that as the main reason he’ll sit at first.
But in the end, don’t be surprised if Blackshear remains a sixth man for the Cardinals because of that explosive scoring ability — this is the same guy who scored 13 points in 20 minutes against West Virginia on Feb. 11 and nine points in 14 minutes against Kentucky in the Final Four.