July 21, 2008

Should Louisville welcome Caracter back?

Here's an SAT-type question for you.

Derrick Caracter is to untapped potential as:

A. Tyler Hansbrough is to tapped potential;
B. Brandon Jennings is to uncharted territory;
C. Tom Crean is to a long first season;
D. All of the above.

The answer is "D."

Caracter is an erstwhile power forward at Louisville. In two seasons with the Cardinals, he has averaged 8.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, rather pedestrian numbers until you consider that he has put up those numbers in only 15.7 minutes per game.

Why does he play so few minutes? Because he has a hard time following Rick Pitino's rules. He spends enough time in the coach's doghouse that the back of his jersey should read "Fido."

He ended up declaring for the NBA Draft but pulling his name out. Pitino was ready to pack his bags for anywhere else, and the coach said he was not welcome back on the team even after he pulled out.

The final resolution appears to be this from Pitino: "If Derrick is willing to grow up in the game of life and we can help him realize his potential, then we are there to help him. But that's a big 'if.' He will not be a part of our team next year. He will have to measure up in three areas as a student, as a person and as a basketball player before I will entertain the possibility of him returning to our team for the 2009-10 season.

"We expect him to get a job, pay for school on his own, get in shape and abide by the other steps I have reviewed with him. If he measures up, then he can earn his way back. But that remains to be seen."

Should Pitino allow Caracter to play at UofL again? That's the question we posed to basketball editor Bob McClellan and staff writer Andrew Skwara.

SKWARA'S PICK: NO

I'm all for second and sometimes even third chances. I went to Florida State, where perhaps nobody gives out more of those than Bobby Bowden.

But even college football's most forgiving coach draws the line at some point. Just ask Laveranues Coles or Randy Moss.

Caracter deserves the same treatment. The former five-star recruit has broken so many of Pitino's rules that it's tough to pinpoint exactly how many chances he has been given. I think this makes his eighth or ninth.

At what point do you draw the line? Do you wait for Caracter to reach double-digits?

This whole scenario makes Pitino, who long has had a reputation as a demanding coach, look weak. He has said on multiple occasions that Caracter is off the team for good, only to let him back time and time again.

Worse yet, it sets a terrible example for the next generation of college athletes, particularly those with tremendous talent who arrive at school with lots of hype, as did Caracter. They are being taught that it doesn't matter if you follow your coach's rules. It doesn't matter what kind of shape you are in or how many times you break curfew. It doesn't matter how many times you sell out your own teammates.

Pitino should stop this dangerous cycle immediately and tell Caracter he will not let him back under any circumstances. That's the kind of example that finally would place some accountability on Caracter and earn the respect of the rest of the team.

MCCLELLAN'S PICK: YES

Caracter isn't a bad character. He just doesn't abide by Pitino. I'm not saying that's a good thing at all, but he hasn't been a miscreant during his time with the Cardinals, either.

Pitino never played Caracter more than 20 minutes in a game after Jan. 17. But when the coach needed him in the first couple of months because of injury problems, the player seemingly stayed out of trouble. To that point, he was averaging 10.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and more than 20 minutes, solid numbers for any sophomore in the Big East.

Caracter's minutes and production dropped off dramatically from that date. He appeared in every game, but scored in double-figures only three times in the final 19 games and never played more than 18 minutes.

He must not have become too much of a distraction, though, because like I said, he played in every game from Dec. 18 until the season ended in the Elite Eight against North Carolina.

If Caracter meets Pitino's demands, he should be reinstated fully. The structured environment of college and basketball will be good for the player, and the player's productivity will be good for the Cardinals.

CAST YOUR VOTE: Should Louisville welcome Derrick Caracter back?

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.




 

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