2004 backcourt prospects

ITV takes a look at Coach Pitino's top backcourt prospects in the class of 2004. Sebastian Telfair, J.R. Smith, Shaun Livingston, Rajon Rondo, Josh Wright and many more.

Pitino looking for point guard

The Cardinals are loaded with young talent on the perimeter with 6'7 Francisco Garcia, 6'3 Taquan Dean, 6'2 Brandon Jenkins and 6'8 Nate Daniels. And Coach Pitino is looking to add two additional members to this already stacked arsenal from the class of 2004.

And with Top 25 swingman, 6'6 J.R. Smith of St. Benedict Prep in Newark, NJ seemingly in fold, Coach Pitino can now turn his entire focus this summer to landing his marquee point guard recruit to direct his explosive arsenal of offensive weapons.

The possibilities at the point appear endless and Coach Pitino devoted considerable attention during the April evaluation period to finding his man. Coach Pitino has already offered scholarships to at least four point guards from the class of 2004, including 6'1 Sebastian Telfair, 6'6 Shaun Livingston, 6'2 Rajon Rondo and 6'0 Josh Wright and several others are drawing serious attention for the Cards. Among that group includes 6'2 Ronnie Steele, 5'11 Dupree Fletcher and 6'1 Taurean Green.

Sebastian Telfair is certainly the most celebrated and hyped recruit of the bunch. He burst onto the national radar as a slick 8th grader at the Adidas ABCD 4 years ago and is ranked by some as the nation's premier prospect in the class of 2004.

Telfair, long rumored to be a Louisville lean by those close to the Cardinal program and in basketball circles across the country, averaged 28 points and 6 assists last season and led Brooklyn (NY) Lincoln High to the New York State Federation Championship in 2003 and had an excellent visit last week with Coach Pitino.

Telfair has flair and substance to his game. He controls the game from the point with his ball handling and passing abilities and is one of the fiercest competitors in the nation. He has the ability to create his own shot and can bury the open three with regularity. He has NBA potential and ability and would be an immediate impact player on the collegiate level.

Telfair will attend ABCD this summer but don't expect an early commitment from this talented prospect. Lincoln Head Coach Tiny Morton told ITV earlier this year that Telfair would likely wait until the fall to make a decision about his college future.

He's got all the heavies on his trail, including Louisville, Duke, Arizona, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, UCLA and UCONN and his recruitment will be one of the most intense battles over the summer and fall months.

Shuan Livingston is one of the top players in the class of 2004. From Peoria, ILL, Livingston has a big frame with point guard skills. At 6'6, Livingston can see and shoot over smaller defenders and led Peoria Central High to the Illinois State Championship as a junior.  He averaged 16 points and 7 assists last season.

(Shaun Livingston)

Livingston is silky smooth and has tremendous ball handling and passing skills.  He's at his best when he gets in the lane and creates open looks for his teammates.  He's tremendously unselfish on the offensive end and he's a big time winner.  He can finish in traffic despite his thin build and has the ability to be a lock up defender with his size and quickness.  And the kid can get out on the break and make things happen.

"I want to get the ball and run and make things happen in transition," Livingston told TheInsiders. "Defense is a priority."

At this point, Livingston has narrowed his choices to five schools, Illinois, Arizona, Duke, Florida and Louisville.  Illinois probably had the inside the track for Livingston until Coach Self left for Kansas because two of his AAU teammates, Richard McBride and Brian Randle both chose Self and the Illini last fall.  It remains to be seen if Coach Webber will be able to secure a commitment from the youngster from Peoria.

Rajon Rondo is the player most Louisville fans are the most familiar with. From Louisville Eastern High, the 6'2 point guard has been a star on the local high school scene since his freshman season. Long and athletic, Rondo is a big time scorer and distributor who showed the ability to completely take over a game on his own during an excellent junior campaign.

(Rajon Rondo)

Rondo is clearly the top talent in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and was named the state's player of the year in 2003 by the Associated Press after averaging 28 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in leading the Eagles to the LIT title and Regional Semifinals in March.

Rajon has unlimited ability and is perhaps one of the top rebounding point guards in the nation. He's a bit under ranked nationally at his position but he'll likely move up this summer after displaying his skills on the national AAU and camp circuits. Rondo can get in the lane and finish with the best around the basket and added a mid range jumper to his game this past season. He's an unselfish point who gets the ball to his teammates where they're most effective and can also get hot from behind the three point line. He is extremely quick and athletic with long arms which suggests he has the ability and potential to be a top flight defender down the road.

Rajon is a tough competitor who had 47 points, 16 rebounds and 42 points and 22 rebounds against top ranked PRP as a junior in handing the talented Panthers two of their three losses in state. Rondo, who attended Coach Pitino's camp last summer and has been playing unsupervised pickup games with current UofL players this spring might end up with this scholarship when it's all said and done. Rondo lists Louisville as his co-favorite with Indiana and it appears to be a two horse race at this point. "IU and U of L are like neck and neck right now," Rondo told TheInsiders last week.  Kentucky and N.C. State are trying to enter the picture but if Pitino steps up the heat for a commitment it's a safe bet Rajon would be in red and black in 2005.

Of note, Rondo will likely transfer schools for his senior season after Eastern Head Coach Doug Bibby was released following the season. Rondo told ITV that he had spoken with Oak Hill's Steve Smith but the smart money might be on 7th Region power Ballard. Word is Rondo will join the Bruins and Bibby will accept an assistant coaching position on Chris Renner's staff next season.

Josh Wright is a relatively new name on the Cards recruiting radar screen and has an offer from Coach Pitino. Wright is one of the top players in upstate New York and will remind Louisville fans of former Cardinal great Dejuan Wheat.

Wright averaged 25 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 assists as a junior and is considered one of the nation's Top 50-75 players by most national gurus.

An excellent three point shooter, Wright is quick and distributes the ball well and would certainly fit perfectly in Pitino's offensive system which places a premium on triple threat players, those rare kids who can shoot, pass and handle.

"He's got terrific shooting ability and his quickness allows him to get by most people," Long Island Panthers Head Coach Gary Charles said. "But the best thing he does is shoot the hell out of the ball."

Wright lists Syracuse, Kentucky, UCONN, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Seton Hall, Louisville and South Florida.

Ronnie Steele of John Carroll High in Birmingham, AL is receiving considerable interest and mail from the Cardinal coaching staff after being named the High School Player of the Year by the Alabama Sportswriters as a junior.

He's a skinny point guard with plenty of quickness and skill and ranks as one of the Top 100 players in the nation.  Steele plays for Ken Harris and the Alabama Ice on the Adidas AAU circuit.  And if the name Ken Harris rings a bell it should.  Harris was also the AAU coach of James Lang and accompanied the big man on his visit to UofL last summer when Lang verbally committed to the Cards.

Steele is receiving serious interest from a number of SEC schools, including Alabama, Auburn and Kentucky. 

Dupree Fletcher is an excellent shooting point guard known for his ferocity on the court.  Fletcher attends King High School in Milwaukee and DTA Wisconsin on the Adidas AAU circuit.  Fletcher led King to the Milwaukee State Championship as a junior and averaged 15 points, 4 assists and 4 steals.

Fletcher is intersted in DePaul, Ohio State, Louisville, Florida, Virginia and Marquette.

Taurean Green is the son of former NBA great Sidney Green and attends the Pendleton School in Bradenton, Florida.

Green is steady point man who shoots it well from the outside.

Green is receiving interest from Florida State, Florida, Miami (Fla.), Indiana and has been offered by Ohio State.





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