Pitino is 'incredibly high' on Onuaku

Rick Pitino

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. - University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino chatted with Cardinal Authority about some of his freshman post players. Pitino is excited about the progress of Chinanu Onuaku and updated the status of his two new 7-foot players.

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino is excited to have a stockpile of new post players on the roster this coming season.

But one of those newcomers has Pitino more excited than the others - Chinanu Onuaku.

Pitino said the 6-foot-10 center from Upper Marlboro, Md., has come "a long, long way," in a short period of time since he arrived on campus in early June.

"When he first got here, I was blown away at how bad it was," Pitino said. "I'm not sure I've had anybody in that bad of shape, except Akoy (Agau). Everybody told me at the Derby Classic that he was in awful shape, so I figured it would take time. He was in awful shape.

"But in one months time, he has gone from that bad of shape to someone I am so, so high on. I'm incredibly high on him because I think he's going to be a major factor for us this year."

Onuaku was ranked as the No. 53 prospect in the Class of 2014 by Scout.com. He was ranked as the third highest-ranked prospect in the six-player class for the Cardinals.

When he arrived on campus, Pitino said Onuaku was out of shape and noted in a press conference two weeks ago that he hoped he would be able to make enough progress to be a factor for the Cardinals this coming season.

"You never know (with freshmen)," Pitino said. "Chinanu has blown me away in four weeks as to how much potential he has. It's scary the potential that he has. (Former assistant Kevin) Keatts kept telling me he is going to be great for you and he was 100 percent on the money."

Pitino said Norweigan 7-footer Matz Stockman has been with the team for just about a week now and is a redshirt candidate with Egyptian 7-foot center Anas Mahmoud. Both players were unranked and Pitino said have "a ton of potential."

But the Cardinals are expected to redshirt at least one of the big men this season.

"Matz and Anas are both projects," he said. "Any time you get a 7-footer - unless you get an exception like the Patrick Ewing's of the world - they are going to be projects.

"Both guys are redshirt candidates. Matz is farther behind because he was late getting here. One week with us is like one week of summer school - it's a cram session. So he's behind mentally, he's behind emotionally, he's behind physically. So, you never know."

Pitino said Mahmoud was up to 196 pounds last weekend and noted Stockman has "the potential." He said he remains high on both players and how they can help the program down the road.

"The first thing you have to do is get them in shape before you even look at their talent and see what you have," he said. "Now, Anas if I can get him to 210 then we probably won't redshirt him because he has a lot of skills. He has a lot of skills, he just needs the weight."

Pitino confirmed that Jaylen Johnson is still waiting on being cleared by the NCAA.

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