"We are killing them in recruiting...we really are," Pitino admitted. "But are we killing them for the NBA? That's the thing."
"We are having a great recruiting year," Pitino continued. "I just came off the road and we are one or two with some of the top players in the country. The great thing is that we have a lot of great players interested in us."
And despite losing two of the more celebrated members, Sebastian Telfair and Donta Smith, of what once ranked among the top three recruiting classes in college basketball, Pitino's Cardinals remain a hot commodity among the top high school talent in the country.
As for Smith, it's uncertain whether he'll be drafted this June? At this point, he's not a first round selection and he'll certainly have to earn his spot in the draft with his play on the court at the Chicago draft camp.
"There's probably going to be eight high school players, six foreign players and eight college players drafted in the first round," University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said last week. "So that's twenty two slots already spoken for right now."
With Smith's unexpected departure, and the likihood that junior forward Francisco Garcia is NBA bound following next season, finding an immediate impact small forward now has become a major priority for Pitino. Players like 6'8 Chad Millard, 6'6 Marcus Johnson, 6'7 Brandon Rush and 6'5 Terrence Williams are currently the top candidates for that slot.
Sandwiched between the expected announcement by Telfair that he's headed to the NBA, and the disappointing and unexpected news by Smith, Pitino and staff did receive good news last week when 6-foot-8 Tello Palacios of Centerreach, New York signed on to play at Louisville next season.
Pitino and company deserve major credit for the recruiting job to land Palacios. Palacios was expected to announce his decision for Louisville the week prior but delayed that announcement through last weekend. Sources familiar with Palacios' recruitment said the reason for the delay was that the Baylor coaching staff had told Palacios that no freshman under Pitino (Mashburn played 25 mpg) had ever played more than 25 minutes per game as a rookie.
In the end, however, Palacios chose Louisville for the opportunity to play for an NCAA championship and to learn from a future Hall of Famer. And with the potential that fellow signee Brian Johnson could miss next season because of a knee injury, Palacios could conceivably become the first freshman under Pitino to play more than 25 minutes per contest.
Odia, who's visa situation is quite complex, may or may not work out for the Cardinals next season. Either way, expect Louisville and 5'10 Andre McGee to work things out early this summer in terms of a verbal commitment from TheInsiders.com's No. 3 rated point guard in the junior class.
McGee, who made an official visit to Arizona State last weekend, lists Louisville as his leader and plans to visit U of L June 11-12. McGee's mother, Jackie, says it's conceivable her son could finalize his decision either on or shortly following that visit.
Padgett, the former McDonald's All-American and Kansas Jayhawk, visited Louisville over the weekend. Padgett has been hard to track down but those familiar with the visit claim it was an excellent visit. Stanford and UCLA appear the other two finalists for Padgett's services.
One prospect who doesn't get much mention but certainly deserves it is 6'9 Amir Johnson. There's growing reason to believe the native of Los Angeles has emerged as Louisville's No. 1 power forward prospect in the class of 2005 and it wouldn't be shocking if the Cardinals eventually land the athletic shot blocker from Westchester High School.