Harrell key late pickup for Cards

Virginia Tech's loss is Louisville's gain. Montrezl Harrell was slated to star for the Hokies until Seth Greenberg's dismissal. Now, the four-star power forward from Hargrave (VA) Military Academy is a key late addition for Rick Pitino's Cardinals.

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Montrezl Harrell, Virginia Tech's star 2012 recruit, was all set to play for Seth Greenberg in Blacksburg.

Then came the shocking news of Greenberg's dismissal as the Hokies coach April 24, forcing the 6-foot-8 Tarboro, N.C. native to reconsider his options.

After obtaining his release from Virginia Tech May 18, the four-star power forward had no shortage of options. Florida expressed strong interest. So did Kentucky and UConn. Alabama, Cincinnati and NC State also tried to get involved.

But one team - Louisville - quickly emerged as the heavy favorite. A day after receiving his release from Virginia Tech, Harrell lined up a visit with Rick Pitino's program. Harrell spent the weekend visiting the Cardinals and Monday announced that he'll play for Louisville next season.

"When Seth got fired it was a surprise to me and Montrezl and turned our world upside down," Sam Harrell, Montrezl's father, told InsideTheVille.com. "It was crazy and we're glad it's over. We're just happy he's a Louisville Cardinal right now."

Montrezl Harrell will provide frontcourt depth for Louisville next year.
How did Louisville emerge as the favorite for Harrell? Simple, Kevin Keatts. The Cardinals top assistant had a ready-made relationship with Harrell and his father after recruiting Scout.com's No. 72 ranked prospect to attend Chatham (VA) Hargrave for his senior season before joining Pitino's staff last summer.

"The fact that Coach Keatts was there was a good comfort for us," Harrell said. "He had recruited 'Trez back to his sophomore year when he was at Hargrave and recruited him to Hargrave his junior year before he took the Louisville job. So we knew him and then Coach Pitino made us feel very comfortable with coming to Louisville and how Montrezl would fit into his system and with the players."

Harrell said his son took care of UofL enrollment issues while on campus this weekend. Harrell now heads to Colorado Springs, where he'll tryout for the USA under-18 National Team, coached by Florida's Billy Donovan. Twenty-four players will tryout for the team, and if Harrell is one of 12 players chosen to participate won't enroll at UofL until next month.

"He's trying out for the USA under-18 team and if he makes the team he'll [enroll] in July for the second summer session," Harrell said. "If he doesn't make it he'll probably start summer school when he gets back."

While the writing appeared on the wall that Harrell would end up at Louisville - he only scheduled one visit to UofL after getting his release - his visit this weekend sealed the deal.

"The visit was great, seeing the city and talking to people around the city…Montrezl felt comfortable with Coach Pitino, Coach Keatts and the whole coaching staff," Harrell said. "It was a wonderful weekend. Montrezl really liked the [guys] on the team and felt like he really fit in with them. He also thought the coaching staff was great. He just felt Louisville was the place for him."

Louisville returns several key players from a 30-win team that lost to national champion Kentucky in the Final Four. The Cardinals are one of the top preseason favorites to win the NCAA title and Harrell, who averaged 24 points and 13 rebounds last season, is expected to be a major piece to the puzzle next season.

"He's going to bring high energy, he's going to crash the boards hard and rebound and his offensive game is going to get better with Coach Pitino," Harrell said. "Coach Pitino works his kids really hard and he knows what they need to improve on.

"But from the beginning he's going to be a high energy guy, he's going to bring excitement to the game and he's going to rebound and block shots like crazy. I feel like [Montrezl], Gorgui and Chane are going to be a real good combination."

Though Harrell projects as a power forward, his 7-foot-3 wingspan could allow him to provide valuable depth at both frontcourt positions next season behind Dieng and Behanan.

"That's up to Coach Pitino, but he's there to play," Harrell said.

"I hope he has a great season and progresses like Coach Pitino wants him to. Hopefully he'll be a big factor in Louisville's run for a national title. He's happy to be a Louisville Cardinal."

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