Preston Knowles says he's 'different and changed'

If Louisville is going to avoid an ugly slip into the Big East's lower half this season, it's going to need Preston Knowles. The 6-foot-1 guard is one of the few veterans on a Louisville team that turned over much of its roster this offseason, and with the untimely news that Memphis transfer Roburt Sallie and top shooting guard prospect Justin Coleman will both be unavailable for the Cardinals this season, Rick Pitino's team will need to rely on its existing guards more than ever.

The only problem: Knowles has been in Pitino's doghouse for much of the offseason. It didn't help when Knowles was implicated (but never charged) in a May 23 domestic incident involving his then-girlfriend and her stepfather. (The argument, according to the police report, began over a hair brush. Seriously.) Pitino suspended Knowles for the Cardinals' two exhibition games.

Knowles has had to earn his way back into his coach's good graces, and to do that, he's had to spend time at the Daniel Pitino Shelter in Owensboro, Ky. The Louisville Courier-Journal's C.L. Brown checked in on Knowles' community service and found the player talking a lot about gratefulness and change, and that can only be a positive thing for the Cardinals. To wit:

“It was a real big eye-opener about life in general,” Knowles said. “I was kind of going down a path of destruction. Now I'm taking everything for what it's worth. I feel like a totally different and changed person.”

“Instead of playing out of hate and the people that want to see me fail, now I'm playing for the people that always loved me and always wanted to see me succeed,” he said. [...]

Knowles knew it was serious when he arrived at the Yum! Center to work out one day and found out his hand code that unlocks a side door had been deactivated.

“That was the worst feeling,” he said. “It was like basically I was like an outsider. I never felt so sick to my stomach.”

Knowles' positive attitude alone won't make Louisville a contender for the Big East title. The Cardinals are going to have to stockpile some talent in 2011 -- which Pitino is well on his way to doing -- before the program makes any returns to glory. In the meantime, though, Louisville needs its senior guard to take a major step forward. For the first time in his career, Knowles seems to have the mindset part covered.