LOUISVILLE — Thank goodness for Chane Behanan.
With a bench already shortened by injuries, Behanan is being counted on to immediately step into the Louisville Cardinals' starting lineup.
Coach Rick Pitino thinks the 6-foot-6, 250-pound freshman is ready to rock.
"Chane Behanan (pronounced Shane buh-HAN-en) is everything I wanted in a power forward," Pitino said. "He's a quick learner, so he's able to play right away because of it. All freshmen have to get better defensively, and he certainly has to get better defensively."
Offense shouldn't be a problem.
In U of L's exhibition opener, a 74-55 win over Pikeville, Behanan totaled 16 points and seven rebounds.
"It's a big challenge," Behanan said of his adjustment from high school to Pitino-ball. "For real, I'm real surprised that I've made it this far, and to become a potential starter. It's really a big honor for me. It's different. You go hard the whole three hours (of practice). ... I'm just glad I'm in shape for it."
After all, summer workouts were the culmination of a years-long process of getting ready to play for the Cardinals.
Behanan transferred from Aiken High School in his hometown of Cincinnati to Bowling Green High for his last two seasons.
"It's just something I wanted to try out," he said. "Just get out of the city, get used to Kentucky. Because I knew I was going to be here all along."
He averaged 23.3 points, 14.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 blocks for the Purples last season, earning McDonald's All-American honors.
Peyton Siva, U of L's junior point guard, is impressed with his new teammate.
"He's a great guy. Very skilled. Big body," Siva said. "Once he gets the fundamentals down, I think he'll be a great player."
"He needs to learn," the coach said. "He's 'the fundamentals away' from being a great basketball player, and he picks up something new every day."
To illustrate, Pitino told of going over film of the Red-White game, in which Behanan notched 32 points. He also grabbed six rebounds. But he had no offensive rebounds and no assists, and that's what caught Pitino's eye.
The coach let his freshman know that his stats were not up to snuff.
"Well, next day in practice, he just tore into that position in the way he played," Pitino said. "So he's a very quick learner, a very quick study."
Aptitude, attitude and ability to focus. Focus on things such as defense.
"Just going to the right spots on defense. ... If (we) score a three-pointer, we're in a certain defense. If we score a two-pointer, we're in a certain (other) defense," he said. "So, just understanding the little things."
He says another "little thing" that he has come to understand in the pre-season is to "not take plays off."
"Because if you take a play off, you're basically letting your family down in reality. Your real family, if you take a day of work off, that's a couple dollars off your paycheck. So that's how I look at it when I do play: I try not to take a play off. I don't want to let my teammates down. I want to be involved in every play."
Behanan cites his "entire family" as the greatest influence on his career. Besides his mother, Heaven Warren, and father, Vincent Behanan, he has four siblings: Cordero, Cameron, Calen and Ce'Arius.
Of the many tattoos he sports, his favorites are his mother's name on his left forearm, and his grandmother's (Maxine Warren) on his chest.
Now, his family includes Cardinals. And he's ready to do whatever he can to help his new brothers.
"I'm going to try to come in and rebound, and try to play my role. Try not to take plays off, like coach has been talking about during practice," Behanan said.
"Whatever he needs me to do — be in the paint if he wants me to be. Rebounding. Helping Gorgui (Dieng, U of L's center) rebound, that's going to be the key."