Pitino will visit top juniors this week

Recruiting is heating up for Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals. Pitino will head out on the road this week to pay visits to some of the nation's top prospects. With players like <b>Kevin Durant</b>, <b>Edgar Sosa</b>, <b>Jerry Smith</b>, <b>Lance Thomas</b>, and <b>Willie Kemp</b> in the mix, Louisville appears to be in great shape with the class of 2006.

Recruiting is heating up for Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals.

Coming off a 33-5 that saw Louisville advance to the Final Four for the first time since 1986, several of the nation's top rising seniors are showing strong interest in Pitino's program.

Apparently, the Cardinals are looking to fill needs in two key areas with the class of 2006 – power forward and point guard. Of the seven prospects listed below that the Cardinals are interested in, three are power forwards, and three are point/combo guards.

Topping the Cardinals "wish list" is 6-9 PF Kevin Durant, the No. 3 ranked prospect in the class of 2006. Durant, from Oak Hill (VA) Academy, told Inside The Ville last week that he's looking to take some visits this spring in hopes of making a mid-summer decision. Durant will visit North Carolina and UCONN early next month, and has Louisville, Georgia Tech, and Texas on his final list. Durant said he's looking to schedule a visit to Louisville this spring.

Antonio Pena, a 6-7 power forward from St. Thomas More School in Oakdale, CT, also says he's looking to take some visits this spring. The former teammate of Louisville signee Sebastian Telfair is ranked the No. 92 prospect in the class. Re-classified a member of the class of 2006, Pena claims offers from several Big East powers, including Syracuse, Louisville, UConn, St. John's, Cincinnati, and Villanova.

At point guard, the Cardinals appear interested in two of the class' best prospects.

One of those prospects, 6-2 Edgar Sosa from Rice High School in the Bronx, NY, has already drawn the interest, and a scholarship offer from Louisville. In fact, Pitino made a recruiting trip to watch Sosa during the high school playoffs two months ago. Pitino is also scheduled to pay Sosa a visit this week.

The other is Willie Kemp, a 6-2 point guard from Bolivar (TN) Christian Academy. Kemp led Memphis Pump ‘n Run to the Real Deal on the Hill title in Fayetteville, Arkansas last weekend. On the way to the title, Kemp's squad knocked off 7-0 Greg Oden and Spiece Indy Heat. Ranked the No. 88 prospect by Scout.com, Kemp says he's "open" but Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisville, and Georgia Tech are in the mix.

Jerry Smith made an unofficial
visit to Louisville last weekend.

Another talented combo guard, 6-2 Jerry Smith, made an unofficial visit to Louisville last weekend. Smith, rated the No. 48 prospect nationally by Scout.com, has some interesting ties to U of L – he's a relative of former Louisville great Darrell Griffith. Smith, from East High School in Wauwatosa, WI, also lists Wake Forest, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Earl Clark, is a talented, and versatile 6-foot-7 swing man from Rahman, NJ. Ranked the No. 37 prospect in the class, Clark is likely headed to prep school next season and could be re-classified. Clark told Scout.com last weekend that he was interested in Miami, Villanova, Louisville and Kentucky. Rutgers could also join the mix for Clark's services now that assistant Fred Hill has joined Gary Waters staff.

"When he plays and is on his game like he was at the (Real Deal), a strong argument for Top 25 status in this class is in order," Scout.com national recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. "At 6-foot-8, he's legit on the perimeter and handles it like a smaller guard. He scores, rebounds, distributes and can defend virtually any position."

Rick Pitino will visit Lance Thomas
this week.

Two of the players Louisville assistant Vince Taylor saw while attending the Real Deal on the Hill AAU tournament last weekend were 6-8 Lance Thomas, a junior power forward from St. Benedict Prep in Newark, NJ, and 6-5 Marques Johnson, a junior point guard from Fort Wayne (IN) Snider ranked the No. 57 prospect nationally by Scout.com.

Thomas, considered one of the eight-best power forwards in the country by ScoutHoops.com, has a long list, but Louisville will pay him a visit this week. Thomas has a slew of scholarship offers, including from Arizona, Florida, Duke, Connecticut, and Syracuse.

Johnson has made an unofficial visit to Louisville in the past, and was an AAU teammate of U of L signee Chad Millard last summer.

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