Pitino focused on quality, not quantity for '06

After signing a blockbuster, seven-member recruiting class that ranked among the nation's best hauls in 2005, University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino appears focused on recruiting (star) quality, not quantity in 2006.

Rick Pitino has been busy the past two weeks.

The Louisville coach has logged thousands of miles on the recruiting trail in recent days, primarily visiting several multi-talented forwards, and two skilled guards.

Already during the spring evaluation period, Pitino has visited 6-9 Kevin Durant of Oak Hill Academy, 6-8 Lance Thomas of St. Benedict Prep in Newark, NJ, 6-7 Earl Clark from Rahway, New Jersey, and 6-9 Brandon Wright of Brentwood, Tennessee.

The two guards he's logged miles to visit – 6-2 Edgar Sosa of Rice High in the Bronx, New York, and 6-2 Jerry Smith from East High in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin – are both capable of playing either backcourt spot, though Sosa projects primarily as a point guard, and Smith is best-known for his accuracy from three-point range.

Coming off a Final Four appearance, Pitino has focused his efforts on the best the Class of 2006 has to offer - all six of the players listed above that Pitino visited rank among the nation's Top 50 by Scout.com.

Having signed seven players from the Class of 2005, in addition to 6-11 David Padgett, and 6-9 Brian Johnson, both of whom sat out last season at U of L, we're hearing that Pitino would like to sign any two – one backcourt, and one frontcourt prospect - of the players he's most recently visited.

It's known that Durant, Wright, Sosa, and Smith have been extended scholarship offers by Pitino. Thomas says the Cardinals haven't yet made an offer, and we don't think Clark has received one from Louisville yet either – but that could change.


Durant is likely Louisville's top
overall prospect in '06.

Smith has already made an unofficial visit to Louisville, and there appears a race between he and Sosa to accept Pitino's offer.

Why would Pitino only take the first of the two to commit? 2007 star guard Nolan Smith is close to announcing his decision to play at Louisville instead of Duke or Syracuse, and 2008 guard Martez Walker verbally committed to the Cardinals two months ago.

Smith will likely make an official visit to Louisville next month, and could participate in Louisville's summer camp. Sosa on the other hand, according to his brother, isn't in a hurry to decide. Eric Sosa told Inside The Ville last week that his brother would allow the recruiting process to continue throughout the summer before scheduling official visits next September. It's our guess that if Sosa sticks to his current plan that the 6-2 Smith will have long beaten him to the punch.

There also seems little doubt that Durant is Pitino's top frontcourt target. He's a perfect-fit for Pitino's style of play, but he's also likely the top prospect for both North Carolina and Uconn. Durant has spring visits scheduled to both UNC, and Uconn, and will probably make a third visit to Louisville.

If Pitino can't entice Durant to Louisville, expect him to immediately turn up the heat on Wright, Clark or Thomas.

By the look of things, Pitino's '06 class likely won't have the quantity that his blockbuster 2005 haul possessed, but it sure doesn't appear it will lack in star-quality, either.


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