Saturday, January 31, 2004

Pitino says ailment remains unidentified

College hoops notebook

Enquirer news services

LOUISVILLE - University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino said Friday that doctors have not specifically identified the ailment that caused him to take a leave of absence earlier this week, but he reiterated that it is not life-threatening and said it will not keep him from coaching "full bore" for the rest of this season and beyond.

The coach spoke publicly for the first time since leaving Tuesday with his wife, Joanne, for the Cleveland Clinic, where he underwent two days of tests for what he initially termed a "urological" disorder that had been causing him pain since late August.

The coach offered few specifics in a news conference at U of L but expanded a bit on his condition Friday night in an interview with The Louisville Courier-Journal after being asked for clarification.

"What they basically have done is ruled out all the serious-natured stuff, and now it's a guessing game to what's causing the pain," Pitino said. "The good thing is none of it is with the colon, bladder or any of that stuff."

Pitino said at the news conference that "a few minor problems are causing the pain."

"It could be a gamut of things," he said. "It could be a terrible abdominal tear to a hernia to a number of different things. And right at this point in time, I wasn't ready to stay there to find out, because I had to get back."

Pitino told reporters he underwent six or seven different tests in 36 hours in Cleveland and that doctors there were able to ease his mind about the possibility of a serious illness relatively quickly.

PLAYERS SUSPENDED: Corey Smith of Vanderbilt and Renaldo Balkman of South Carolina were suspended for a game for fighting.

Balkman hit Smith in the first half of South Carolina's 57-55 win Wednesday, then Smith threw Balkman to the ground and started hitting him.

Balkman was ejected for a flagrant foul, drawing the suspension from the Southeastern Conference. Smith also was thrown out for fighting, which requires an automatic one-game suspension by the NCAA.

Both players will serve their suspensions today - Balkman against Mississippi and Smith against Kentucky.

IOWA: Center Sean Sonderleiter probably won't play in today's home game with Penn State because he's dealing with some personal problems, coach Steve Alford said. Alford was not sure when - or if - Sonderleiter would return.

"He's still on the team. He's fighting some inner stuff," Alford said.

If Sonderleiter doesn't play, he'll be the fourth player the Hawkeyes have lost this month. That would leave the team with only seven scholarship players.

Jared Reiner, whom Sonderleiter had replaced as the starting center, is sidelined by a stress fracture in his right foot. Reserves Nick DeWitz and Mike Henderson became ineligible because of poor grades.

Sonderleiter, a 6-foot-9 senior, is averaging 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds. He has endured trying times the last 18 months, including the death of his sister last summer, and was charged with fifth-degree theft in November after driving down an embankment to avoid paying a parking attendant. In February, Sonderleiter received a deferred judgment after pleading guilty to marijuana possession in a case dating to July 3, 2002.

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