Pitino looking for shooters in class of 2005

One of University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino's top priorities in the class of 2005 is finding a couple of talented shooters to play major minutes in 2005-06. With several talented prospects on the board, the only unanswered question remains who will fill those available slots.

With the anticipated departure of All-America candidate Francisco Garcia following the 2004-05 season, one of University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino's highest priorities currently is finding a couple of talented shooters from the class of 2005.

Also factoring into the need to land one or two talented long range bombers will be the departure of graduating seniors Larry O'Bannon and Nate Daniels. And don't forget, junior Taquan Dean will have but one season of eligibility remaining when the current crop of rising high school seniors enter college in the fall of 2005.

Add it all up and it's easy to figure out that Louisville will have plenty of immeidate minutes available to which ever standout prepsters decide to cast their lot with Pitino's Cardinals.

What also should make Louisville's situation enticing to players like David Huertas, Eric Devendorf, Jose Garcia, Chad Millard, Brandon Rush, Terrence Williams and Marcus Johnson is that Pitino's system is geared toward showcasing the talents of such players.

Just check the list of athletic wings and shooting guards the future Hall of Fame coach has helped reach the NBA for proof. There's Jamal Mashburn, Ron Mercer, Derek Anderson, and Roderick Rhodes from his days at Kentucky. Reece Gaines, though he played point guard as a senior, averaged 20 points as Pitino's shooting guard his first season at U of L. And next on the list appears to be Garcia, who was projected by some draft anaylsts as a possible late first round pick this year had he chosen to take that route.

And if you're one of the top perimeter players in the country, surely another important consideration will be the caliber of surrounding frontcourt talent. It's no secret in basketball that having capable big men to take the heat off the guards and wing forwards creates easier opportunities for those players.

With 6'9 Brian Johnson, 6'8 Tello Palacios, 7'0 Clarence Holloway, and 6'10 Terrance Farley already in the fold, Pitino has secured some of the most talented young big men in the country. And if 6'11 Kansas transfer David Padgett and/or any of the Cardinals '05 frontcourt prospects (6'7 Jamal Boykin, 6'9 Amir Johnson and 6'10 Brayden Bell to name a few) cast their lot with Louisville in the near future, the Cardinals will be as loaded as any team upfront in college basketball the next few seasons.

Getting back to the shooting guard prospects, there's no shortage of talent interested in Louisville's situation. Huertas, who reminds some of a young Garcia, has tremendous range to along with a natural feel for the game. In Devendorf, the school of his choice would get a talented scorer who can fill it up any number of ways. And Garcia is intriguing with his explosive athletic ability and touch from the outside.

So who will step forward first and claim the scholarship Pitino has slotted for a shooting guard? Huertas will make an official visit to U of L this summer and lists Kansas and Arizona in his top three along with the Cardinals. Devendorf will visit Florida and Syracuse in the near future and you can be sure Louisville will angle to receive one, too. And assistant Vince Taylor paid Garcia a visit last month.

There's plenty of talent for Pitino to choose from at small forward, too. The U of L coach paid visits to both Millard and Johnson during April and assistant Reggie Theus would have stopped in to see Williams if schedules had allowed. Rush, perhaps the most talented of the lot, is rumored to be seriously considering the NBA directly from high school but continues to list Louisville at the top of the list. At this point, it looks as though Millard and Williams will make official visits at some point this summer to Louisville.

With at least seven talented prospects receiving heavy interest from Louisville to fill just two wing slots in '05, you have to think a couple of the guys on that list might be ready to pull the trigger in the not too distant future for the Cardinals.

And why wouldn't they? Any player looking for impact minutes as a freshman on a national championship contending team with a former NBA coach probably recognizes a golden opportunity when they see it. When and who appear the only remaining questions left to be answered.


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