LOUISVILLE — Stock answers why basketball players choose to play for a particular college generally include available playing time, tradition, locale, quality of play or even academics.
Then there's Preston Knowles, a University of Louisville senior out of Clark County. He says he needed a change in his life. He thought Coach Rick Pitino would guide him in the right direction.
"Honestly, my mind-set wasn't the right mind-set for me to succeed and excel in something that I love," Knowles explained. "I played off raw emotion, basically, my whole life. The mentality basketball-wise was great, but the mentality life-wise wasn't really all that (good).
"I know Coach Pitino ... and all of the stories I'd heard, he's not putting up with any of that. Kind of like how my high school coach was. Coach (Scott) Humphrey was kind of the same way. But Coach P is just on a whole different level. I knew he wasn't going to put up with any nonsense."
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After three seasons as a follower, Knowles now is in the role of leader.
The 6-foot-1 shooting guard is the lone senior on a team that takes a 10-1 record into Monday night's game against Morgan State.
Knowles has led the Cardinals in scoring in five games, four outright. Knowles leads the team with a 13.7 scoring average, including a career-high 24-points Saturday against Gardner-Webb. He leads the Cards in playing time, three-pointers made (28) and, among regulars, free-throw accuracy (82.6 percent).
Perhaps what is more important, though, is how Knowles tries to lead by taking his role as team captain to heart.
When U of L suffered its first loss last week, to Drexel, Knowles immediately said he had let his team down. The captain said he needed to talk more, boost the confidence of his teammates and lead by example.
"I think everybody agrees the team kind of feeds off of my energy, so the more energy I bring, the more energy they'll bring," he said. "In close-game situations, when it's under five minutes to go, that's when we have to be the closest. I mean, we're already a good, together team. But we have to become an even greater team. We just have to believe in each other and always stick together, good or bad, and I think we'll be able to succeed."
That falls nicely in line with how Pitino has described his team all season.
"They're a linked fence," Pitino said before the season opened. "If one link breaks down, the team breaks down."
As the leading link, Knowles preaches teamwork. What this fast-paced team does best, he says, is pass the ball on the break. And play defense.
Offense? Knowles doesn't even think about it. Pitino has described him as a shooter with no conscience.
"Most definitely," Knowles agreed. "Coach, as long as you don't take challenged shots and you're open, he wants you to shoot the ball. It doesn't matter how many shots you miss, all he's worried about is defense.
"That makes it a heck of a lot easier also. I miss two or three, I'm still open, with open looks, I'm going to shoot. You really can't think about it."
A communication major who would like to play pro ball and some day be a business entrepreneur, Knowles knows how to win. He averaged 21.4 points and 7.1 rebounds as a senior to help Clark County reach the Sweet Sixteen, winning the 10th Region title at Mason County.
At U of L, the school he picked over Kansas State, LSU, Miami (Ohio) and Virginia Commonwealth, he's twice helped the Cards reach the NCAA Elite Eight. However, only 12 of his 99 games over his first three seasons came as a starter.
Now, he's older, refined as a player and wiser.
Pitino, it seems, has pointed him in the right direction.
Last summer, the coach and his longtime friend/advisor, Father Edward Bradley, had some of the players join them for two weeks of working at an Owensboro homeless shelter. Pitino was struck by Knowles' reaction, saying that "working in the soup kitchen was a revelation for him."
Knowles agrees that the experience changed his perspective on life.
"It definitely did," he said. "There's so many different people down there, it just makes you appreciate everything you have."