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The Skinny

You want the 'skinny' on <b>Rajon Rondo</b>? How about updates on U of L's hoops signees? We've also got news on underclass prospects <b>Nolan Smith</b> and <b>Martez Walker</b>. And the only place you'll find all the above is in <b>"The Skinny."</b>

6'3 Joe Crawford, the frontrunner for Mr. Basketball honors in the state of Michigan, had to be a little more than surprised when he heard the news.

Crawford, who has narrowed his choices to Kentucky and Michigan but is considered a heavy UK lean, has been Tubby Smith's prized target since last summer.

He visited the UK campus for midnight madness and has generally given positive vibes in the recruiting world that he eventually pick Kentucky, probably as soon as the last vote is cast in the race for his state's top individual award.

So what could Crawford and his father, Joe, Sr., have been thinking when Rajon Rondo's name was being seriously floated last week for the Wildcats final scholarship? And make no mistake, as things stand now, Kentucky has just one scholarship to give, having signed four players last year, two more in November, plus Patrick Sparks. You'll recall Sparks agreed to walk-on in Lexington only after beng promised a scholarship for next season. So that's seven guys in two years. Which means Smith can only take one of the two guards mentioned above. Prep school for Adam Williams you say? Not so according to Williams' father.

And going one step further, Rondo to UK simply doesn't make sense. The Wildcats already signed Ramel Bradley inthe fall and he and the 6'2 Louisville native play the exact same position...point guard. So why would Rondo sign with Kentucky and compete for minutes for four years with a talent like Bradley, especially when Smith hadn't shown interest in Rondo until recent weeks?

Apparently the anwser to that question is two fold. First, it doesn't appear Louisville came with an immediate, unconditional offer for Rondo to match Kentucky's, though one liekly would have come if Sebastian Telfair bolted for the NBA later this spring. We'd heard Smith's offer to both Rondo and Crawford was a first come, first serve basis and it looks like Rondo believed that to be the case because he sure didn't waste any time. When Louisville decided not to counter UK's offer, Rondo decided it in his best interest to go ahead and pull the trigger before Crawford could do so.

So Louisville's primary spring target, should Sebastian Telfair decide to test the NBA waters, will likely be 6'8 Tello Palacios of Centerreach, New York. Palacios, talented to be sure, also has notions of the NBA life after high school.

But with point guards like Taquan Dean, and Brandon Jenkins already on the roster, the Cardinals appear stocked at the position for the next few seasons with or without Telfair or Rondo. In reality, Dean and Jenkins have the Cards on a 15 game winning streak and a top 4 national ranking. How much better play can the Cards get at the point anyway?

As for finding a replacement for Telfair in the event he takes the dollars and heads to the league, expect Louisville to make a major push for one of the top point guards nationally in the junior class as there are virtually no other points in the current class worth pursuing.

And with guys like Donta Smith, Brian Johnson, Lorenzo Wade, and Terrance Farley on the way, along with the return of power forward Ellis Myles next season, Louisville will certainly remain one of the top contenders to cut the nets on the season's final Monday night.

Speaking of Smith. All he did was go for 33 points with Pitino watching courtside Thursday evening, making 13 field goals and going a perfect 8-8 from the line. Then against Olney Saturday night, Smith was impressive once again, this time posting 25 points.

And with the loss of forward Luke Whitehead at the end of this season, Smith will be a perfect replacement. Not only is Smith perfectly suited for Pitino's full court press, but he's versatile enough to play multiple positions and provide the team the kind of skills that Whitehead currently brings to the table but in a bigger, more explosive package.

6'5 Lorenzo Wade continues to perform well for a balanced Hargrave Military Academy team. Wade, a silky smooth swingman with increasing range, had 15 points and 3 boards in a one point victory over super talented Laurinburg at the North Carolina Classic in Greensboro, NC. He came back later in the week against Roanoke JV with another solid performance, finsihing with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in a blowout win.

Then there's Nolan Smith, the son of former U of L great Derek Smith, who is a freshman at St. John's Prep in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Smith has to be considered a heavy U of L lean, and not just because he told us that was the case last July at ABCD. Smith's sister also attends U of L as a freshman this year so the family connection between the Smith's and U of L has already been reestablished.

On the court, Smith, considered one of the top five players in his class nationally, is performing well at the varsity level as a freshman. This season, he's had several outstanding games, including a game-high 22 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists vs. Punahou in the opening round of the Iolani Classic. He also had 13 points against Northwestern in the Celriver Holiday Basketball Classic at Wintrop, 10 points against Lancaster, and five against Jamal Boykin and Fairfax out in Hawaii.

And just a short mention about 6'6 freshman Martez Walker from Reserve Christian (LA). If you'll recall, we first introduced you to Walker when he attended the U of L basketball camp last summer and both he and his father, Larry, are huge Cardinal fans.

Walker, who is playing varsity this season as an eigth grader, recently performed well at the Flyin' to the Hoop tournament in Dayton scoring 11 points in one game. And he's already caught the attention of national recruiting gurus like Clark Francis with his performance this season.

So not only does the present look bright for Louisville with players like Donta Smith, Johnson, and Wade but the future looks even better with youngsters like Nolan and Martez waiting on deck.

Until next week, that this week's recruiting "Skinny."

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