Cards search for talent in the paint
Next season the Cards lose forwards Luke Whitehead, Kendall Dartez and rebounding machine Ellis Myles (assuming he's not redshirted). Finding frontcourt replacements for these three players appears to be priority number one for Coach Pitino with the class of 2004.
Pitino has been extremely active on the recruiting trail this spring, pursuing several of the nation's top interior prospects. And his efforts appear to have the Cards solidly positioned to land some of these talented "big boys."
Don't forget, Coach Pitino is off to an excellent start as he already has one talented interior player in the fold in from the class of 2004 in underrated, 6'10 Terrance Farley from Pleasure Ridge Park High School.
Farley came on like gang busters last season as a junior. He will enter his senior season as one of the top players in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and will likely rank as one of the Top 100 players nationally with the ability and potential to move much higher in the rankings throughout the season.
Farley, an athletic shot blocker and rebounder, is taylor-made for Pitino's uptempo, pressing style of play. A long, lanky type, Terrance runs the court extremely well and his offensive skills are rapidly improving. He possesses a soft touch around the basket and has shown glimpses of developing a face up game away from the rim. Farley averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocked shots as a junior and really picked up his game in the late stages of the season. He then looked incredible in mid April playing against the top juniors in the state, scoring 18 points and grabbing 9 boards.
Farley has been playing on the UofL campus this spring with his future teammates in unsupervised pickup games and from all reports is more than holding his own against the current Cardinal interior players, particularly on the defensive end.
With Farley in the fold, Coach Pitino appears to be looking for two more top interior prospects to come in and make an immediate impact in 2004-05. As of the first of May, Pitino has offered scholarships to several of the nation's top interior prospects, including 6'8 Tello Palacios (PF), 6'10 Alexander "Sasha" Kahn (C), 6'11 Randolph Morris (C), 6'9 Mohamed Tangara (PF) and 6'10 David Burgess (C).
Tello Palacios appears to be Coach Pitino's top inside prospect this summer. The 6'8 Jamal Mashburn play-a-like is an extremely versatile forward that can score and rebound inside the paint and also step outside and bury the three point shot. Palacios is an adept passing big man with excellent hands and footwork.
Palacios garnered Pitino's interest during his junior season in which he averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds for Our Savior New American, Centerreach (NY). Pitino made special recruiting trips during the season to see Palacios in action. Once at the War on the Shore in Deleware during the Thanksgiving holiday and again in Dayton at the Flyin' to the Hoop Tournament in which Palacios earned tournament MVP honors.
During the April evaluation period, Pitino paid Palacios a visit and told the native of Colombia why he should choose Louisville over his many other pursuers.
"He's very interested in Louisville," Our Savior's Ron Stelzer told ITV after Coach Pitino's visit a few weeks ago.
Palacios has a long list at this point, including Illinois, Villanova, Tennessee, Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, N.C. State and Valporaiso. He'll enter next season as one of the Top 25 prospects nationally.
6'9 Mohamed Tangara peeked Coach Pitino's interest after a strong showing at the Boo Williams Invitational in April. And by the time Tangara returned home from the Boo Williams, Pitino was there waiting to visit with this big time athlete from Mali and his guardian and AAU coach Linzy Davis.
"Louisville's in the #1 position," Davis told ITV after Pitino's visit. But there's several other high profile programs who won't let Tangara simply fall in the Cards lap, including Arizona, Memphis and Michigan.
Tangara is an extremely active player reminiscent of former Florida player Donnell Harvey. Mohamed plays incredibly hard and is one of the best rebounders in the class. He dives on the floor for loose balls, blocks shots and has an improving offensive repotoire.
The Cards could have to advantages in its favor in trying to lure Tangara. Assistant Vince Taylor has been recruiting Tangara for many months and has developed a solid relationship with the people around Mohamed who have influence on his decision. Essentially, Taylor effectively laid the groundwork for Pitino to move in and vault the Cards into the lead position. But the more important factor might be Pitino's track record for preparing and developing players for the NBA.Tangara's guardian and high school coach both alluded to Mohamed's desire to make it to the next level and indicated Pitino's resume could be the deciding factor in this recruitment.
The surprise entry here is 6'10 Alexander "Sasha" Kaun of Florida Air Academy. Kahn, a 240 pound center, averaged 12 points per game last season but burst onto the national scene this spring with impressive performances on the AAU circuit.
Coach Pitino flew to Florida a couple weeks ago to meet with Kaun and watch him work out in the FAA gym along with several other big time college head coaches, including Florida's Billy Donovan and saw him again last weekend at the talent laden Kingwood Classic in Houston.
Kaun, a native Siberian, has only played the game for three years but he's strong in the paint with improving skills and will be considered one of the top prospects in the class of 2004. Kaun has impressive list of suiters besides the Cards, including Kansas, Florida, Duke, Georgetown, Stanford, South Florida and North Carolina.
ITV's tip of the day. Keep your eyes on Alexander Kaun!
6'11 Randolph Morris of Landmark Christian in Atlanta, GA is one of the top centers in his class and has received considerable interest from Coach Pitino.
"He's a big strong kid around the basket and runs the court very well," Landmark Head Coach Brian Bartley told ITV.
Pitino visited Morris during the season to see him take on 6'10 Dwight Howard. Morris scored 20 points in that game and Pitino obviously saw enough during that performance to continue recruiting him into the spring. Pitino traveled back to Georgia during the spring evaluation period to meet with Morris and express his interest in the 6'11 center.
"Coach Pitino said they are very interested in Randolph and that he'd be a perfect fit at Louisville," Bartley explained to ITV after Pitino's visit. "Coach Pitino said they'd love to have him."
Morris is certainly interested in the opportunity to play for Pitino and Bartley told ITV that Randolph would most likely travel north to visit UofL next fall.
"Randolph was excited that Coach Pitino came down," Bartley said. "The name Rick Pitino speaks for itself."
The fifth interior prospect Coach Pitino has offered is 6'10 David Burgess of Woodbridge High in Los Angeles, California. Burgess is the brother of former Duke signee, Chris, and is one of the top rebounders in the class.
Burgess likes to get in the paint and mix it up and has solid low post scoring ability. David averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds as a junior and was named first team All-CIF. Burgess is considered one of the Top 50 prospects nationally.
Pitino visited with Burgess during his west coast swing a couple weeks ago and the Cards are one of Burgess' top two at this point along with UCLA.
But the Bruins appear in a strong position with Burgess and they'll be tough to beat, especially with Ben Howland at the controls in Westwood. However, Burgess' family is said to really like Coach Pitino and Louisville.
Burgess expects to make a decision before the start of the season.
They're are several other prospects receiving attention from Louisville and Coach Pitino, most notably 6'8, 320 Glenn Davis of Lousiana.
Davis has received national attention this spring for his outstanding play and was named the MVP of the Adidas Texas Classic after leading Sports Academy to the title. Davis scored 26 points in the final on 10-11 shooting from the field and 6-6 from the free throw line.
Davis is extremely nimble for his size and knows how to mix it up in the paint. He's an elite prospect on the national level and if the Cards top inside prospects decide to go elsewhere, Davis could enter the mix.