Caracter, Clark headline talented signees

Louisville coach Rick Pitino announced the signing of four highly-touted high school prospects from the Class of 2006 Friday afternoon, highlighted by two standout forwards from New Jersey – 6-9 Derrick Caracter and 6-8 Earl Clark.

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino announced the signing of four highly-rated high school prospects Friday afternoon, including two potential McDonald's All-American forwards – Derrick Caracter and Earl Clark.

Coming on the heels of last year's consensus Top 10 recruiting class, Pitino sounded excited about the prospect of adding another talented group of recruits in 2006-07.

"We're very excited about the back-to-back recruiting classes we've had," Pitino said. "We came away with three of the top players from the northeast this year, and another guard who may be the best player in the state of Wisconsin."

""Physically, all four are ready to play, although Edgar (Sosa) and Earl need a good weight training program," Pitino added. "But all four of these players are very, very talented and we're excited to have them in our program."

Caracter, a 6-foot-9 power forward rated No. 13 nationally by Scout.com, gives Louisville's 2006 recruiting class plenty of firepower. He recently transferred to Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburgh, Mass. to concentrate on academics. "We've told him if it doesn't work at Notre Dame, it's not going to work at Louisville," Pitino said.

On the court, though, it's a different story with Caracter.

"You can't stop him in the low-post, he can't be moved," said Pitino. "He has terrific hands, is a great passer, can put the ball on the floor and hit the outside jump shot. He needs to lose 25 pounds but his potential is off the charts."

Clark is rated just behind Caracter on most recruiting lists, and is ranked the No. 21 prospect nationally by Scout.com. He's a versatile talent and can play multiple positions for Pitino's Cardinals.

""He's as talented as any player I've ever recruited," said Pitino. "He's extremely gifted and he's passionate about the game."

"He has the size and length of Scottie Pippen," added Pitino. "He has the ability to handle the ball like a point guard at 6-8, and he plays way above the rim. We'll get to work on his strength when he arrives."

There had been much speculation earlier this week that Clark, a 6-foot-8 forward from Rahway, NJ, wouldn't sign a binding national letter of intent during the early signing after the Associated Press, the Louisville Courier-Journal and at least one local television station cited a report quoting Clark's high school, Chris Renley, to that effect. Fortunately for U of L, those reports proved inaccurate.

"Earl Clark's was the first letter of intent we got (Wednesday)," Pitino said. "There was never anything to that (story). He was always signing early."

With Taqaun Dean graduating next spring, Pitino knew he would need some backcourt help, and he found it in this signing class with two highly-rated guards – Sosa and 6-foot-3 Jerry Smith.

Smith averaged 19.3 points and 5.4 assists as a junior, while Sosa averaged 15.1 points and 8.3 assists while leading Rice High School to New York City's CHSAA championship game.

"Jerry is a true combo-guard," Pitino said. "He's very strong and he's a great shooter. He reminds me of Taquan Dean when we recruited Taqaun, but he can do more things at the same stage. He can put it on the floor and create like a point guard, but has the ability to be a great shooter from the perimeter."

"And Edgar has Franciso's great passion for the game of basketball," Pitino said. "He's great in the open court and has very good leadership ability."

Louisville's latest haul has drawn rave reviews from recruiting services. The Cardinals four-member class is ranked 8th nationally by Scout.com, 5th by Hoop Scoop, and 4th by HoopMasters.


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