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Stephan Van Treese leaves Louisville, making room for Montrezl Harrell

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Stephan Van Treese and Rick Pitino (Getty Images)

The mystery of how Louisville planned to free up a scholarship to make room for Montrezl Harrell didn't take long to solve.

Reserve big man Stephan Van Treese has been given his release, Louisville confirmed on Wednesday. Van Treese, who missed all but three games last season because of a left knee injury, likely would have played sparingly next year as a backup to starting center Gorgui Dieng.

"Although Stephan's playing time has been limited with injuries, he's a terrific young man who needs to step on the court and play 30-plus minutes a game, gain his confidence and have some success,"  U of L coach Rick Pitino said in a statement released by the school.  "We wish him the best and will always be behind him."

It's possible the decision to leave Louisville was entirely up to Van Treese, but the timing of the news will raise suspicion otherwise. The announcement came just two days after Harrell committed to Louisville, giving the Cardinals one more scholarship player than they are allowed to carry by NCAA rule.

The downside to the tremendous depth Louisville has enjoyed the past couple years is Rick Pitino has over-recruited in order to acquire it. In the past year alone, Pitino encouraged senior Jared Swopshire to transfer for his final collegiate season and accepted offers from Chris Smith, Kyle Kuric and Elisha Justice to free up scholarships by paying their own way for school.

Van Treese averaged 2.9 points and 3.5 rebounds as a sophomore, contributing off the bench for a Louisville team that overachieved to earn a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. He may be best remembered for a thunderous alley-oop slam off an inbound pass at South Florida.

If Louisville will miss Van Treese, the rave reviews Harrell has received at U.S. U-18 tryouts should ease that pain. Harrell, a raw but athletic 6-foot-8 forward, has impressed scouts with his rebounding and defensive prowess.

"Montrezl Harrell should have been rated WAY higher than late top-100," DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony said. "Better than half the big men at McDonald's."

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