Inside Cardinal Basketball: Weekly notebook

Steve Masiello

The University of Louisville men's basketball team tips off the regular season on Sunday at 4 o'clock with a game against Manhattan College. Here is a final preseason notebook full of goodies from the Cardinals' camp.

PITINO READY FOR MASIELLO

University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino has coached against plenty of his former assistant coaches over the years.

On Sunday, Pitino will face another.

Louisville will host Manhattan College in the season-opener on Sunday and Pitino will tangle with his former player and assistant Steve Masiello.

"He knows everything we're going to do," Pitino said, smiling. "But we also know everything that he is going to do. It should be fun."

Masiello was a walk-on and played for Pitino at the University of Kentucky. He spent six years working for Pitino at Louisville before leaving to coach the Jaspers prior to last season when he guided the team to 21 victories.

Pitino has been poking fun for several weeks about how Masiello wanted to schedule the game as the opener.

"He's one of the best young coaches in the game and he's so smart," Pitino said. "I couldn't figure out why he wanted the first game so bad. Well, playing the first game means we have no film on him and he knows how I prepare.

"He knew it would drive me crazy. I've been paying a janitor to chart things they have been doing in practice. So, he knew what he was doing."

All jokes aside, Pitino said the game will "be a very good challenge for us."

BLACKSHEAR ANXIOUS TO FACE EX-COACH

Masiello coached and recruited many of the current Cardinals, including sophomore Wayne Blackshear.

The ex-U of L assistant coach was one of the main reasons that Blackshear came to Louisville with Masiello spending tons of time recruiting the McDonald's All-American. Blackshear said the two still speak.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Blackshear said. "He's the guy who recruited me to come here and we're still close.

"He's obviously not coaching me anymore, but it will still be fun."

A NICKNAME FOR RICK PITINO – OR NOT

Junior guard Russ Smith is the leader of the nicknames, giving every player on the team one – or more – nicknames.

Michael Baffour is Dark Slime, Chane Behanan is "Stumps," Wayne Blackshear is "Fat Wayne," Zach Price is "Lester" and Angel Nunez is called "Obama."

Stephan Van Treese said "there are some we can't even say."

What about coach Rick Pitino? Have the players given Pitino a nickname?

"Coach P a nickname?" Gorgui Dieng asked. "I don't want to lose my scholarship. I wouldn't want to take that risk.

Let me just call him Coach P, with a lot of respect."

MANGOK FITTING IN WITH TEAM

Freshman Mangok Mathiang isn't eligible to play this season for the Cardinals but he's still allowed to practice with the team.

And he's fitting in with his teammates, including center Gorgui Dieng, who is from Senegal. Mathiang, a native of Sudan, has been called "Gorgui" a lot since he arrived.

"People will come up to him and say, ‘Gorgui'," junior guard Russ Smith said. "He'll be like, ‘What?' He does look like Gorgui."

Added Dieng: "They call Mangok, Gorgui all the time. I just told him not to do anything stupid."

Smith said Mathiang is "a little more American than people think." He spent time in Australia and at prep schools in Illinois and Florida.

"He has slang words," Smith said. "I think he's part American."

ADVICE FROM GORGUI

Junior center Gorgui Dieng said he used to be roommates on the road with junior guard Russ Smith.

Smith, who is close friends with walk-on Michael Baffour, is now rooming with the player he nicknamed Dark Slime.

Dieng has some advice for everyone.

"Stay away from that room," Dieng said laughing. "Just stay away. Because that's Russ Smith's room and it's dangerous."

SIVA ALREADY HONORED

Senior point guard Peyton Siva already has one honor for the season, being selected as one of 30 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award.

The CLASS is an acronym for Celebrating, Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School. The award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages them to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as community leaders.

A player can quality for the award by being a senior and having notable achievements in four areas – community, classroom, character and competition. The list will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the season.

THREE ON WOODEN WATCH LIST

Siva, Dieng and Chane Behanan were all three listed on the Wooden Watch list top 50 preseason ballot released on Thursday.

U of L was the only school in the country with three players on the list.

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