Louisville women reaching for No. 1

NEW YORK – The University of Louisville women's basketball program has one of its biggest recruiting weekends ever set to begin on Friday. The Cardinals will have four prospects, including the No. 1 player in the nation and two other top-50 targets on campus. What are the Cardinals chances with these prospects?

University of Louisville women's basketball coach has already led the Cardinals to the NCAA national title game and landed two top 10 recruiting classes during his first five seasons at the school.

But Walz and his staff are preparing for what potentially be one of the biggest weekends in the history of the school's program.

U of L will he hosting four Class of 2013 prospects, including the No. 1 player in the country Mercedes Russell, starting on Friday. Emmonie Henderson, who is ranked No. 42 by ESPN.com, will also be on campus this weekend along with two of Russell's AAU teammates – No. 42 Jordan Reynolds and Alexis Montgomery.

The Cardinals only have one commitment in the '13 class – junior-college guard Janelle Cannon - but adding a couple pieces from this weekend would challenge for the top-ranked recruiting class in the country.

Walz can't talk about potential recruits because of NCAA rules but last week at Big East Media Day noted the next few months "will tell us a lot about the future of our program. We really like the direction we are headed."

"On the men's side, kids go to this school and that school but it's not always been like that in the women's game," Walz said. "In the women's game you have to convince the young ladies that you can do it just like anybody else."

And, according to veteran Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, that is the final hurdle the Cardinals have to clear to start landing elite prospects every year.

Auriemma called Louisville "one of the unique places in the college basketball world," and predicted that Walz could land a top class there.

"There's such great tradition on the men's side that goes back years and years and years," Auriemma said. "The people in Louisville are all used to being great. It was just a matter of time before somebody came in and did what Jeff is doing, and he was able to do it there in a short period of time.

"Now, with the new building and his success he's been able to get involved with some of the top kids in the country in recruiting. He has them set up to be a top-10 team from here on out. "

Auriemma called the kids visiting Louisville "the elite level" prospects and noted this weekend could be when the program takes the next step in recruiting.

"It's all about relationships," Auriemma said. "Louisville could get a kid like Bria Smith because they had a relationship with her, but they weren't getting Breanna Stewart because they didn't and with these kids they have those.

"I'm telling you if he's able to land a couple of kids like that and win, then all of a sudden you can be right in there with more and more the next couple of years."

Russell is the star of the class national. The Springfield, Ore., standout made her visit to Tennessee last weekend. She's down to U of L and the Lady Vols.

Henderson is a standout from Edwardsville, Ill., who also visited Tennessee last weekend and will also chose between the two schools. Reynolds is a 5-foot-11 guard also from Oregon and visited Tennessee last weekend.

The fourth prospect is Alexis Montgomery, another AAU teammate of Russell.

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