LOUISVILLE — Rick Pitino is ready to move Louisville forward by flipping back a few chapters in his playbook.
Pitino said Wednesday it's time for the Cardinals to return to the up-tempo style he used with great success during previous stops in his coaching career.
"We want to get back to the way we used to play, kamikaze kids," Pitino said. "We are rebuilding our brand, our image."
The makeover comes after sophomore center Samardo Samuels opted to enter the NBA Draft rather than return for his junior season.
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Though Pitino felt Samuels would have benefited from another season or two in school, he understands why the Jamaica native opted to turn professional.
"Whether he's making a right or wrong decision is irrelevant, he's making it for the right reasons: for his family," Pitino said.
Samuels averaged 15.3 points and 7.0 rebounds last season for the Cardinals and was a third-team All-Big East selection.
Though most projections have Samuels going undrafted, Pitino believes the 6-foot-9, 265-pound Samuels can catch on in the NBA.
"He's going to try and change people's minds," Pitino said. "He's a small power forward (in the NBA) and he's got to show that he can do the things they want at the NBA level."
Samuels' departure allowed Pitino to offer a scholarship to Shelby Valley star and Kentucky Mr. Basketball Elisha Justice.
The Cardinals have also signed 6-5 swingman Justin Coleman and could add another recruit before the spring signing period ends.
Justice and Coleman will be part of a decidedly smaller and quicker team that will open Louisville's new downtown arena next fall.
The Cardinals went 20-13 last season, losing to California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They struggled shooting the ball at times and often lacked the kind of defensive intensity that has been Pitino's hallmark in his nine years with the program. Louisville allowed opponents to shoot 43 percent from the field last season, the worst mark since Pitino's first season with the team in 2001-02.
Though the Cardinals will miss Samuels' size, Pitino sees it as an opportunity for forward/center Terrence Jennings. Jennings showed flashes of brilliance as a sophomore, averaging 5.4 points and 3.4 rebounds while leading the team with 40 blocks. Long and athletic, the 6-10 Jennings remains raw offensively and looked lost on the floor when paired with Samuels.
"He won't score like Samardo scores, but he's an athlete that can change a game," Pitino said. "Nothing motivates you more than playing time."
For the Cardinals to play at the pace Pitino favors, much of the onus will fall on guard Peyton Siva, who will take over duties at the point from Edgar Sosa. Siva will travel to China later this month to play nine exhibition games against Chinese Basketball Association teams for Reach USA.