When the national signing period, which runs from Nov. 9-16, gets underway this week, U of L coach Rick Pitino expects to hit the mother-load when four of the nation's top high school basketball prospects officially cast their lot to play at Louisville beginning in 2006-07.
And if things go as expected - there's been no indication to the contrary - Pitino will have his best group of signees since becoming the Louisville coach in 2001.
Edgar Sosa, a 6-foot-2 point guard from Bronx, NY who was the first player from the Class of 2006 to verbally commit to U of L, will be joined by Jerry Smith, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Wauwatosa, WI, Derrick Caracter, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Elizabeth, NJ, and Earl Clark, a 6-foot-8 small forward from Rahway, NJ.
"Basically, Louisville got three of the elite players coming out of New York and New Jersey," said Scout.com analyst Jeff Goodman. "That's hard to do, even if you're Pitino.
All four prospects are rated among the nation's Top 70 prospects by Scout.com, but Caracter and Clark are the headliners. Caracter (No. 13), who picked U of L over Memphis, and Clark (No. 21), who chose the Cardinals over Villanova, are both ranked among the Top 25 prospects nationally and figure to receive strong consideration for the McDonald's All-America game next spring.
"I think Earl Clark is one of the more underrated guys around," Goodman said. "There's nothing that kid can't do."
Sosa, widely regarded as the top senior point guard prospect in New York City, averaged 15 points and 6 assists as a junior. He's ranked No. 57 nationally by Scout.com and picked U of L over Seton Hall, Miami and N.C. State.
"He's tough, hard-nosed and can score the ball," said Goodman. ‘He's very vocal and a kid that I think people will want to play with as long as he develops more into a pass first point guard."
Smith, a two-time first team All-State selection, is the front-runner for Mr. Basketball honors in Wisconsin. He missed much of the summer with a back injury, but is still ranked the No. 68 prospect in his class. He selected U of L over Wisconsin, Wake Forest and Tennessee.
Scout.com ranks U of L's class fourth nationally behind North Carolina, Ohio State and Washington. And unlike the past two years, Pitino won't have to worry about his newest crop of signees by-passing college for the NBA.
"I like this class better," Goodman said. "They have far fewer question marks associated with this group than last year. Part of it is that the NBA isn't in the equation for Caracter or Clark."