Jun 7, 2011, 5:19 PM EST
Rick Pitino solved Louisville’s scholarship problem. All it took was having three guys revert to walk-on status for next season.
The notable aspect? Two players – Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith – were starters. The other is sophomore Elisha Justice. That’s some program commitment.
The school announced the move during a press conference Tuesday morning, which will get the Cardinals to the 13-scholarship D-I limit. That became an issue after a nice recruiting haul for Pitino, who recently landed two notable players in Kevin Ware and Luke Hancock. Ware is eligible this season. Hancock won’t be playing until 2012-13.
It’s not an unusual move, especially for programs that have to juggle their scholarship numbers to accommodate late signings, early player departures and other random stuff that goes with high-profile programs. As Eric Crawford of the Louisville Courier-Journal notes, a similar move worked out for Tubby Smith at Kentucky 10 years ago.
Besides, all three weren’t originally scholarship players. Also from Crawford:
Of this particular scholarship move, Pitino said, “When Kyle first came here, he wasn’t supposed to be on scholarship and he was put on scholarship. Bullet (Elisha Justice) was coming here he wasn’t supposed to be on scholarship, he was put on scholarship. Chris Smith was not supposed to be on scholarship, he was put on scholarship. I told the Kuric family at some point in time throughout his career I might need it for a year and I’ve never had to do that until now. So we’ve been very up front with everybody. As a matter of fact, it’s just the opposite. Those guys weren’t supposed to be on scholarship but they were. And Kyle has more than not only exceeded but deserved the scholarship he’s been on.
“You know, look. We would not even consider asking unless (Kuric’s) family could afford it. His father’s a brain surgeon. That wouldn’t even be a factor. We wouldn’t even consider it.”
Smith is the younger brother of NBA player J.R. Smith. Finances presumably won’t be an issue for him, either. But it’s no small thing to be a walk-on. That means paying for tuition, room, board, team expenses, etc. etc.
Those are some committed players.
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