Pitino and assistant Kevin Keatts spent the weekend in Las Vegas watching key 2013 and 2014 prospects in action at the adidas VIP Exclusive Run, while assistant Wyking Jones tracked prospects in Minneapolis at the Nike EYBL.
While Pitino looks to find a replacement for Richard Pitino, who accepted the head coaching job at FIU last week, his most pressing chore is putting the pieces together for a critically important 2013 recruiting class.
Why is the Class of 2013 so important for Pitino's program? The biggest reason is that all-star point guard Peyton Siva graduates after next season, as do reserves Mike Marra and Stephan Van Treese. That means Pitino will have at least three scholarships to fill. That number could increase if frontcourt stars Gorgui Dieng and/or Chane Behanan have big seasons and leave early for the NBA, a distinct possibility.
Anton Gill, a top 50 combo guard from North Carolina, is a solid starting point for Pitino's 2013 recruiting class. Gill, who gave the Cards an early verbal commitment, led Ravenscroft school to a state championship as a junior and helped Garner Road advance to the adidas VIP Exclusive Run championship game this weekend with Pitino and Keatts watching.
"In the championship [game] his long range shot wasn't going down so he adjusted and started going to the basket and got to the free throw line," Scout.com recruiting analyst Evan Daniels said. "He scored a game-high 17 points, finished around the basket. He was playing against real good competition with the Florida Rams and they had trouble containing him off the dribble."
Pitino's top 2013 recruiting priority appears to be in the frontcourt, perhaps hedging his bet against losing Dieng/Behanan next season.
"I don't think their goal is to sign only one [frontcourt player], I think they want a couple of them," Daniels said.
6'9 Moses Kingsley is one of the prospects at the top of Pitino's wish-list. A native Nigerian who plays his high school basketball at New Albany, MS, Kingsley has already visited Louisville and is strongly considering the Cardinals, along with Florida, Alabama and others. Jones kept tabs on him in Minnesota.
Louisville also is showing strong interest in Kennedy Meeks, Scout.com's No. 2 ranked center prospect. Meeks, 6'8, 270, told Scout.com this week that he's thinking about visiting Pitino's Cardinals and Miami in the near future. Georgetown, UNC and South Carolina are also in the mix.
"[Louisville] saw him play in Las Vegas," Daniels said. "He didn't play during the high school season so his recruitment is still wide open. He's definitely a guy [Louisville] evaluated and they are starting to develop the recruiting process with."
Louisville is also interested in elite center BeeJay Anya and Top 50 big man Dominic Woodson. Rick Pitino went to see both prospects play during the season. Woodson, is originally from Louisville, while the 6'8 Anya hails from Hyattsville, MD. A five-star recruit, Anya is ranked the No. 1 center in the class; Woodson is rated the No. 6 center prospect in the nation.
"I think they are recruiting both of those guys," Daniels said. "They are spreading a wide net and seeing which ones they can get involved with. They've been involved with Dominic Woodson for a while, and the same goes with Moses Kingsley and Jarrell Martin. They evaluated all of those guys this weekend."
Jarrell Martin, a four-star power forward from Baton Rouge, La., is a prime target for Louisville. Martin, the No. 10 power forward, visited Louisville during the season and Pitino made a trip to watch him play.
"I think he's is a guy that they have prioritized," Daniels said. "Jarrell Martin is right there at the top of their list."
The Cardinals also watched Jordan Mickey from Arlington, TX, in Las Vegas last weekend. Mickey, a new name on Louisville's list, is a Top 20 prospect nationally (18) and is ranked the No. 6 power forward in his class. Power forwards Thomas Hamilton from Chicago, Jarquez Smith from Macon, Ga., and Kris Jenkins of Washington, DC., also appear to be on the Cardinals radar.
Jabari Parker, Scout.com's No. 1 recruit nationally, would top Louisville's wish-list on the wing. Pitino watched the 6'7 small forward play during the season in Chicago. Greg McClinton, a Top 40 small forward from Winston-Salem, NC, is also on the Cards recruiting radar. Pitino watched the athletic McClinton, who has already made an unofficial visit to Louisville, play during the season. Sidarius Thornwell, a Top 40 wing from Lancaster, SC., told Scout.com Louisville has been active in his recruiting recently. The No. 6 shooting guard nationally, Thornwell is worth monitoring.
While Piitno is casting a wide net on possible 2013 frontcourt targets, the Louisville coach doesn't appear pressed to land a replacement for point guard Peyton Siva. Perhaps the Cardinals view 2012 signee Terry Rozier and Anton Gill as a capable replacements for Siva, the 2012 Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Louisville also has a commitment from top 2014 point guard Quintin Snider, who drew praise from Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels for his play at the adidas VIP Exclusive Run.
"[Point guard] doesn't appear to be a [priority] for Louisville," Daniels said. "I think they're pretty happy with Terry Rozier and what he brings to the table. I don't think that's an immediate need for them right now." If Pitino does elect to turn up the heat at point guard, Tyler Ennis and Anthony Barber are two names to remember. Both are five-star, Top 25 prospects that the Cardinals have been involved with to some degree.