Pitino eyes frontcourt targets

Rick Pitino arrived in Hampton Saturday morning for the Nike EYBL and Louisville's search for 2013 big men was in full effect. InsideTheVille.com has the scoop on all the prospects Pitino watched in Virginia.

Louisville's search for 2013 big men is on this weekend at the Nike EYBL Tournament in Hampton, Va.

Rick Pitino showed up at the Boo Williams Sports Complex Saturday and it quickly became apparent - it already was, to be accurate - the Cardinals top recruiting priority lies in the frontcourt.

Pitino's first order of business this weekend - Moses Kingsley, an athletic 6'9 shot blocker for the Arkansas Wings. Pitino watched Kingsley's matchup against 6'9 2014 big man Jahlil Okafor and the Mac Irvin Fire.

It wasn't Kingsley's best outing as the 215 pound center scored just one point while grabbing three rebounds against the more physical Okafor. Kingsley blocked two shots and altered several more. He did a nice using his athleticism and quickness to deny Okafor, who finished with eight points, entry passes in the post. However, when Okafor did get position on the low block, Kingsley was often bullied around by the 255 pound Okafor for easy baskets.

Besides watching Kingsley and Okafor, Pitino also had a chance to evaluate 2013 power forward Thomas Hamilton, who drew a technical foul for poking Bobby Portis in the face. Hamilton failed to score and grabbed just two boards with Pitino and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo courtside.

In the second game, Pitino turned his attention to BeeJay Anya, Scout.com's top-ranked big man nationally. Pitino wasn't the only elite coach interested in the 6'9, 270 pound Anya, who hails from Dematha (MD). Mike Krzyzewski from Duke and Jay Wright from Villanova were both court side to see Anya, who finished with 9 points, 3 rebounds, two blocks and one assist in a loss to the Baltimore Elite team. Anya showed his power around the basket scoring four straight possessions in the first half.

After watching Anya's game, Pitino moved over one court to see rising 2013 big man Chinoso Obokoh. The 6'9, 225 pound Obokoh is raw offensively - 0-2 from the floor - but is active defensively and on the boards. Obokoh grabbed five rebounds in a lopsided loss to CIA Bounce, featuring Andrew Wiggins and Tyler Ennis, and also blocked three shots, including two of 7'3 Tanveer Bhullar's shots in the post. Obokoh finished with 4 points, connecting on his four free throw shots.

Ennis, a talented point guard from St. Benedict's (NJ) who has been mentioned in the past with Louisville, was sensational. Ennis played under control and was on point with his jump shot, connecting on all four three's he hoisted, while showing off an impressive midrange pull up from the elbow. Ennis finished with 22 points, 3 assists and one turnover in 23 minutes.

Pitino watched Kennedy Meeks Saturday night.
After a break in the action, Pitino's search for frontcourt talent continued. First up Saturday night was Jimmy Taylor, a 6'10 center from Greensboro, Alabama. Pitino, joined by UNC's Roy Williams and Georgia coach Mark Fox, watched Taylor for a half. During that time, Taylor scored two baskets off offensive rebounds, finished an alley oop with a nasty slam and hit a left handed mid range pull up. Taylor said afterward that Louisville jumped into his recruitment two weeks ago, and says he has strong interest in the Cardinals after talking to Kevin Keatts.

Pitino then walked over to the next court to watch the California Supreme Elite and Team Final, featuring 6'9 Marcus Lee from Antioch, Cal., 6'7 Darien Williams from Orange, Cal., and 6'7 Rondae Jefferson from Chester, Pennsylvania. After a few minutes watching that contest, Pitino went to the other side of the gym for a while.

His first stop was to see Kennedy Meeks, Scout.com's No. 2 center prospect nationally. Meeks has a big body, but possesses unexpected offensive skills. With Pitino watching, Meeks finished a nifty spin move while fouled in the open court and made a great pass from the high post for an assist.

Pitino then went over to the next court to watch Moses Kingsley, who he saw play early in the morning. Kingsley was extremely active in his second contest, finishing around the rim on the break and off rebound put backs.

Later, the UofL boss sat courtside to watch top 2014 target Jaquan Lyle take on Howard Pully, which featured 6'10 center Kyle Washington. Lyle has tremendous potential and showed deft passing skills with Pitino looking on from the sidelines.

With Pitino and assistant Kevin Keatts watching Lyle, Louisville assistant Wyking Jones kept tabs on 6'9, Memphis forward Johnathan Williams, who has been solid this weekend in Hampton.

Now that Pitino has seen many of Louisville's top frontcourt targets during the April evaluation period, the question becomes who the Cardinals will focus their attention on for the July evaluation period. Kingsley seems like a prime target. After that it becomes more difficult to project, though Meeks seems a strong possibility. And what about two players not in attendance this weekend - 6'9 Dominic Woodson and 6'8 Jarrell Martin?

It's a critically important recruiting class for Pitino's program and it's success will be judged by the big men. Who will emerge as Louisville's prime frontcourt targets this summer?

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