With one JUCO stud, 6'7, 220 Donta Smith, already in the bag for the class of 2004, Coach Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals could possibly add another talented forward from the two year ranks.
6'8, 220 Taj Gray of Redlands (OK) CC, a second team NJCAA All America last season as a freshman, is receiving heavy interest from many of the nation's top programs, including the Cards. Gray averaged 15.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in leading Redlands to the NJCAA Playoffs in Hutchinson and was named the Region II Player of the Year.
Gray is an athletic power forward that possesses excellent scoring moves in the post and ranks as one of the top rebounders in the JUCO ranks. He connected on 69% of his field goal attempts last season and had 20 rebounds in one postseason game.
Coach Pitino has shown interest in the talented forward since early this year and made the trip to Oklahoma after a January 8 game at Charlotte to see Gray in action.
Since that visit, the mail hasn't stopped arriving for Gray from the 502 area code.
In our previous conversation, Eck indicated that Gray is looking for a program that combines solid academics and an uptempo style of play. And by the schools currently on Gray's list, there are plenty of teams who like to get up and down the court.
Gray lists Michigan State, Texas Tech, Indiana, FSU, Oklahoma, Louisville, Kansas, Xavier, Witchita State, Kansas State and Arkansas.
Eck indicated that Gray would narrow the list to a handful of school by the end of summer and then schedule visits to the 3-5 finalists in the fall.
Gray is in his native Witchita, KS for the summer and participates in unsupervised scrimmages with members of the WSU Shocker program.
However, when asked if staying close to home would override other factors in Gray's decision, Eck responded, "Not necessarily."
Gray will attend Jerry Mullin All American Camp in July and by the end of the summer will surely have his pick from among the nation's top collegiate programs.