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Last season, after he had benched Edgar Sosa for what seemed like the 88th time in three years, Cardinals coach Rick Pitino sat solemn-faced across from the point guard in a private meeting in his office. "Edgar, look, why don't you just transfer?" Pitino said. NBA teams don't care how many points per game a player scores, Pitino told him; they want to know if he can play his position well at both ends of the floor. "You're just not getting it," Pitino concluded. "Why don't you go to a school where there's not a heavy emphasis on defense and it's just about offense? Come back to me tomorrow, and I'll let you know which school I think is best for you."
Sosa looked at Pitino with sad eyes. "Coach, I don't want to transfer," he said.
"Well, then," replied Pitino, using his finest acting chops, "I think you'd better find out a way to play defense."
Pitino wasn't serious about the transfer, but this season the coach will need an even greater commitment from Sosa to aspects of the game that don't involve scoring. Now a senior, Sosa says he's ready to help the Cardinals overcome the departures of guard Andre McGee (who was a defensive specialist on the perimeter) and point forward Terrence Williams (who was one of the finest passers in the nation). "I think I've matured a lot on the court," Sosa says. "I'm not getting down on myself over every play, and I feel that I've become more of a true point guard."
Louisville is one of the few teams that can lose two NBA first-round draft picks (Williams and forward Earl Clark) and still have enough firepower to be ranked the following season. But scoring won't be the challenge, Sosa argues. "Coach P says that with our talent and depth, we have a chance to be even better than we were last year," Sosa says, "but that's all going to come down to how well we defend." And, not least, to how much Sosa wants to avoid benching number 89.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Rick Pitino (9th season)