Welcome to prime basketball recruiting time.
Per NCAA rules, the University of Louisville coaching staff - like all other Division I schools - will hit the road on Wednesday for the first of three evaluation periods. The period will begin at 5 o'clock on Wednesday and end on Sunday at 5.
The Cardinals come into the month of July with one commitment already in the fold - wing V.J. King. The Fairfax, Va., Paul IV star plays for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit.
U of L coach Rick Pitino and his staff will be all over the country for the next three weeks trying to land two more prospects in the Class of 2016 and also looking ahead into the '17 and '18 classes.
Cardinal Authority brings you five storylines to watch this month:
1. Who are the prime target(s)? I think it's safe to say the U of L staff will be looking for a guard who can run the show, either a pure point guard or someone who plays both the one and the two. Markelle Fultz and Kameron McGusty are the two top targets, along with De'Aaron Fox. But some others are expected to emerge. Should the Cardinals want to take a center in the class Javin DeLaurier has moved to the top of the list, with Bam Adebayo just a bit behind him. There are plenty of good options.
2. Third scholarship for a what? Perhaps the biggest question of the month is what will the staff do with that third scholarship? King is on board and expect a guard next so then what? A big man? Might not need one with all of the bigs coming back and the improvement of some. Another guard? Could take the best player. Will be interesting and I think this is the week we start to see the staff hone in on some of the top guys they really want.
3. Back from Puerto Rico? Pitino has been in Puerto Rico for about a week now, coaching the Puerto Rican National Team. He has the Pan American games coming up in two weeks. Will he make a trip to the states for recruiting? Will it be a day or longer? All of those questions will be answered this week and it should give us an idea of the guys the Cardinals' really want it he does - as expected - hit the trail for a spell. Assistant Mike Balado won't be on the road this month, instead director of operations guru David Padgett will be out for the Cardinals on the recruiting trail.
4. Any off the radar trips? Many of the top prospects are in Charlotte (Under Armour), Atlanta (adidas) and Augusta, Ga. (Nike) but there are plenty of other tournaments in the first week. Will the staff hit any of the smaller spots, maybe the Best of the South in Suwanee, Ga., or somewhere to try and check in on some under-the-radar kids.
5. Who will rise to the top of the '17 list? The Cardinals have about 15 '16 prospects still on the list but the main guys have been sorted out. The Class of 2017 is a bit different. There are a bunch of guys the staff has looked at and this week should help narrow down that focus also. With only one scholarship in '17, expect the staff to spend a lot of time with D.J. Harvey, Tory Brown and Hamidou Diallo.
Bonus. The Ralph Willard factor: New - and veteran - assistant Ralph Willard told me two weeks ago that he was pumped to get out on the road recruiting. "It's kind of like what I was doing with in the NBA," noted Willard, who was a scout in the NBA. he did say coach Pitino told him there was no pressure just to "find him the next Russ Smith." Willard was the one who "found" the former U of L All-American when he was a 2-star and nobody wanted to take a shot on him.
Cardinal Authority will keep you posted on the happenings of the staff all week.