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February 28, 2012Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino traditionally hasn't started a senior who isn't a regular on Senior Night, but he is veering away from that policy and giving forward Jared Swopshire his first start in two years in Wednesday night's home finale against South Florida (18-11, 11-5) in the KFC Yum! Center.
Swopshire, who missed last season with a groin injury, guard Chris Smith and forward Kyle Kuric will all be making their last appearance in front of their hometown fans, although Swopshire has another year of eligibility.
The 6-foot-8 St. Louis product will graduate in May with a degree in sports administration and plans to transfer to another school, enter a graduate program and play for another season. George Goode did the same thing last year and played this season at Fairleigh Dickinson.
Pitino says it's strictly a numbers game -- he doesn't have a scholarship available for Swopshire -- and even if he did, he would prefer that Swopshire transfer to a school where he could earn more playing time as a senior.
"I love Jared Swopshire, love him, and I would love to see him go play 32 minutes somewhere rather than play 10-12 minutes with us, so that's what it boils down to," Pitino said. "But because of Chane Behanan he's not going to get that opportunity. Even if I had a scholarship, because I love him so much, I would tell him to go elsewhere. If it was my son, I'd tell him to go elsewhere.
"Jared has had to battle a lot of injuries. He leaves here a healthy person. We'll decide with him when the year's over. We'll look at a lot of situations for him, we'll sit down together and see what's the best road to travel in terms of grad school and his one more year of eligibility."
Would Swopshire rather transfer to a school where he could play more or play on a winning team? "Both would be great," he said, grinning.
Swopshire said his time at Louisville has "been a great, fun four years." His last start came on March 19, 2010, in UofL's first-round NCAA Tournament loss to California. This season, he has played in all but one of the Cards' 29 games, averaging 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds. His season-highs are 13 points against Lamar and nine rebounds vs. St. John's.
"I'm pretty excited," Swopshire said. "I'm happy and excited to have completed four years. I'll have my degree in May and that's amazing. I never saw myself going to college and getting a degree."
UofL (22-7, 10-6) has beaten USF 11 times in a row and has dominated the series 25-3, but this is by far the Bulls' best team since they joined the Big East in 2005. A Louisville win would enable the No. 19/18 Cards to tie USF for fifth place in the conference going into the season finale at No. 2 Syracuse (29-1, 16-1) Saturday.