Pitino watched 6-foot-10 Eloy Vargas (Eee-loy) at the Jamfest in Pittsburgh in late April and immediately became enamored with the Dominican Republic native's wide-array of skills. Pitino didn't waste any time showing his programs interest in the versatile prospect, quickly calling Vargas to offer a scholarship.
"Rick Pitino saw Eloy in Pittsburgh back in April and Louisville offered right after that tournament," said Kenny Gillion, Vargas' AAU coach. "Rick Pitino is a coaching legend and to get an offer from him is an honor."
Vargas, ranked No. 73 nationally in the Class of 2008 by Scout.com, made a strong case that he belongs higher up on the recruiting charts after a strong showing last week at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions. Once known primarily as a perimeter shooter, Vargas has changed his M.O. this spring.
"This year he's spent a lot of time working on his post-game and he's mixing it up," Gillion said. "One play he'll hit a three and the next play he'll post up and score. He's made a big commitment to rebounding and blocking shots – he's averaging between 12-17 rebounds this spring. He's just going inside and out and getting all the rebounds."
next Dominican star?
Louisville, Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Miami and Clemson are Vargas' most ardent pursuers, according to Gillion. Last week, Vargas told reporters in North Carolina that the Cardinals held a slight lead for his services and, while Gillion stopped short of naming Louisville the favorite, he did reiterate that the Cardinals are a strong contender for his star forward.
"Louisville is on Eloy's short list because they've had some success with Dominican players, most recently Edgar Sosa and Coach Pitino's contacts in the NBA," Gillion said. "I don't think Eloy has a favorite but he really likes Louisville."
Vargas has a busy summer planned. After participating in the NBA Camp in Richmond later this month, he plans to unofficially visit two Big East programs.
"He's actually planning to visit the Louisville campus at the end of June after the NBA Camp in Richmond," said Gillion. "He's also planning to visit Pittsburgh at the end of the month too."
The visit to Louisville, according to Gillion, should strengthen the Cardinals chances with Vargas.
"I think that visit will greatly improve Louisville's chances with Eloy," Gillion said. "He knows about Rick Pitino and once he gets on campus that would certainly increase his interest in Louisville."
Most schools are recruiting Vargas as a face-up power forward, including Louisville. Off to a strong start this summer, the 220-pound Vargas hopes to show he belongs with the nation's elite.
"He's still really hungry to prove himself," Gillion said. "He's trying to get better and better and he works hard. He gets better each time out. I think he's a future pro. There's not many 6-10 guys that have his skill-level."