Pitino has had considerable recruiting success in the New York/New Jersey area since arriving at Louisville four years ago – landing stars Taquan Dean, Francisco Garcia and Sebastian Telfair. Derrick Caracter, a probable McDonald's All-America selection, announced Thursday afternoon during a press conference at St. Patrick's High School that he will continue the trend.
Caracter has often been criticized throughout his high school career about his physical conditioning and work ethic.
That's why the 6-9, 285-pound power forward's decision to play for Pitino speaks volumes about his desire to challenge himself to reach his vast potential. Pitino, noted as one of college basketball's most demanding coaches for his intense individual instruction and conditioning programs, figures to be exactly what Caracter needs to realize his potential and become a future NBA star.
"Coach Pitino is a good guy and a great coach," Caracter said while putting on a Louisville baseball cap during Thursday's press conference at St. Patrick's High School. "That's why I chose Louisville. He'll help make me more of a well-rounded person and a better basketball player."
"Just look at his resume," Caracter's advisor Eddie Lau said last week of Pitino's appeal. "Coach Pitino gets the best out of everybody. He's always been able to push guys to reach their potential and get them ready for the next level."
A highly touted prospect since attending the Nike All-American Camp as an 8th grader, Caracter possesses uncanny skills for a player his size.
"I like Derrick a lot," Scout.com analyst Dave Telep said. "He's easily one of the ten best prospects in this class. His game is really sound. He's a terrific passer at his size and a fine finisher around the rim. He's not overly athletic but he uses his body to get him places and he's crafty. He'll face you and stick mid-range jumpers with ease."
Caracter averaged 15.6 points and 11.8
rebounds as a junior at St. Patrick's.
"The thing with Derrick is that he's always been bigger and more talented than everyone else and basketball came so easy for him," said St. Patrick's coach Kevin Boyle, who has sent more than 40 players to Division 1 schools, including current NBA players Al Harrington and Samuel Dalembert. "Now he's starting to learn how to push himself."
Boyle said Caracter is more advanced than was the 6-9 Harrington is several respects. Harrington, who now plays for the Atlanta Hawks, never played college basketball, instead declaring for the NBA Draft directly out of high school.
"Derrick's got incredible potential," Boyle said. "He's got better feet and hands than Harrington did at the same age."
One of the top programs annually in New Jersey, Boyle believes his program should prepare Caracter well for a demanding system like Pitino's.
"We like to think we produce well-educated basketball players," said Boyle, whose team ranked among the Top 25 nationally last season by USA Today. "We play a national level schedule every year and we push our players as hard as you possibly can at the high school level."
Boyle said that Caracter hasn't qualified academically yet, noting that he'll take the standardized test for the first time in October.
"He's been OK as a student, but I think he should qualify," the coach said. "We've got a tutor that will be working with him shortly to prepare for the test."
Caracter is the third player from the Class of 2006 to verbally commit to Louisville, joining Edgar Sosa, a 6-2 point guard from the Bronx, NY, and Jerry Smith, a 6-3 guard from Wauwatosa, WI. The highest rated prospect of the three, Caracter is ranked the No. 13 prospect nationally by Scout.com, while Sosa, No. 57 and Smith, No. 68 both rank among the nation's Top 100 prospects.
"It's really too early to tell where Louisville's recruiting class stacks up nationally," Telep said. "But they've just added a McDonald's All-American to two high major guards that can play anywhere. I'd have to think this will be a Top 10 recruiting class when it's wrapped up."
The Cardinals are also actively recruiting Caracter's childhood friend, Earl Clark and 6-9 forward Brandan Wright from Brentwood, TN.
Clark, a 6-7 guard/forward from Rahway, New Jersey, is ranked as the nation's No. 21 prospect nationally by Scout.com. He's scheduled to make an official visit to U of L September 16, and has narrowed his list to two schools - Louisville and Big East rival Villanova. He recently told Russ Blake of NewYorkInsider.com that the Cardinals and Wildcats are "even."
Wright, a consensus Top 5 prospect nationally, also said recently he'll make an official visit to Louisville this fall. He also lists Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina.
Caracter's National Rankings