The Skinny

The 'Skinny' has the latest on Sebastian Telfair, Tello Palacios, and Chris Lofton. We'll also tell you which recruit U of L assistant Vince Taylor saw in action last week and which Cardinal signees will play in the Derby Festival Classic.

Who was Rick Pitino talking to this week when he repeatedly explained that star New York City point guard Sebastian Telfair, who was named to the McDonald's All-America squad last week, was a 99 percent lock to place his name in this June's 2004 NBA Draft?

Surely he wasn't just preparing the fans in Louisville for what most almost assuredly know would eventually happen? Was he?

We don't think so. In fact, those words appeared to be directed at some talented player(s) letting them know that there will be a scholarship available this spring at the University of Louisville.

Pitino, who signed five players, including Telfair, to national letters of intent last fall, has put the basketball world on notice that he's looking for the most talented prospect to round out what many consider one of the top incoming recruiting classes in all of college basketball.

So who were those comments directed?

First guess is 6'8 Tello Palacios of Our Savior New America in Centerreach, New York. Palacios, who was left off the McDonald's All-America team last week because he missed most of last summer's important AAU and camp action, is probably the best unsigned senior in the country.

Some feel Indiana, who Palacios is scheduled to make an official visit to for the Hoosiers game against Michigan in early March (though that has not been confirmed by anyone), have the inside track. They too will have a scholarship available because 6'8 forward Josh Smith of Oak Hill Academy is a lock to become one of the top five picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. With little depth or talent upfront, the Hoosiers can offer something that's essential to Palacios. Loads of quality playing time and touches.

But don't count out Louisville, especially with the type season Indiana is having and constant fan grumbling about head coach Mike Davis' ability to produce consistent results on the court. Palacios is likely target number one and you can rest assured Pitino and company will turn up the heat on the Jamal Mashburn-like prospect in the next few weeks. Remember, U of L assistant Reggie Theus was front and center for Palacios two weeks ago at the Prime Time Shootout and Pitino can make the case that he's best prepared to help Palacios reach his ultimate reach the NBA.

At Louisville, Palacios would see plenty of time, probably at both the ‘three' and ‘four' positions. And at 6'8, getting quality playing time on the wing for a coach who sent similar players like Mashburn and Antoine Walker onto NBA s success can only help Palacios in the long run.

Certainly, Mason County's Chris Lofton remains in the mix. But we're not sure he's the lock to receive a scholarship offer that we were two weeks ago. There's no question he's one of the top shooters in the nation. That's why schools like Florida and Louisville have made recent scouting stops. Notre Dame, Arkansas, Wake Forest, and Georgia are also in the mix.

And while Lofton would fill a need for Pitino's most recent recruiting class with his ability to shoot, there's still some question about his play-making ability. But we'll continue to monitor his recruitment closely in the coming weeks.

Getting back to Theus, he's been mentioned as a leading candidate to replace Coach Charlie Spoonhour at UNLV. He's got the support of the UNLV alumni and booster groups and Pitino has been touting his first year assistant for the job behind the scenes. At this point, Theus looks like the front-runner because he appears to be the guy who can rejuvenate and energize the Rebel fan base and create interest in the once dominant program immediately.

On the court, it was a busy week for U of L's class of 2004. The season's winding down for all them and playoff action is just around the corner.

Louisville assistant Vince Taylor traveled to Harrisburg, Illinois Thursday night to watch Donta Smith pour in 35 points. However, Smith and the second-ranked Falcons fell for just the third time this season, 81-71, to Southwestern Illinois.

Smith also scored 42 points against Wabash Valley earlier in the week and the Falcoln's stand at 25-3. And despite constant talk of Smith jumping to the NBA this summer, we simply don't think that's likely to happen. In fact, he'll be an important player for U of L next season as they chase the schools third NCAA title.

6'9 Brian Johnson also played three games in the state this weekend. Thursday night, he and Oak Hill defeated Ballard at Louisville Gardens to remain undefeated this season. Johnson, who admitted to being nervous playing in front of Louisville fans for the first time, still had 9 points and 11 rebounds and flashed the talent and ability that will make a big difference for the Cardinals frontcourt next year. Also had 12 points against Wayne County Saturday night.

Lorenzo Wade led Hargrave with 20 points in a 121-67 victory Friday night over Louisburg Junior College. He also had 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Hargrave has two more games remaining on their schedule and end next week with two games at the First Piedmont Invitational.

Terrance Farley scored 15 points Friday night in a big win over sixth region rival Iroquois.

Lastly, a source close to the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic, says that Brian Johnson, Lorenzo Wade and Terrance Farley will each play in this spring's all-star contest. As will Kentucky Mr. Basketball and U of L prospect Chris Lofton. Kentucky's Ramel Bradley and Adam Williams will also play but it doesn't look like Rajon Rondo, who was selected to play in the McDonald's game, will participate.

Complete rosters should be released soon for the classic.

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

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