Can Louisville overcome UNC's lead?

Louisville will roll out the red carpet for Samardo Samuels this weekend. North Carolina has a slight lead in the race for the nation's No. 6 ranked prospect as he heads for his visit to Louisville. Can Rick Pitino and the Cardinals overcome the Tar Heels to land the 6-foot-8, 250-pound star? has the scoop.

Louisville will roll out the red carpet this weekend for Samardo Samuels, the nation's top-ranked center prospect.

The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Samuels will make an important unofficial visit to Louisville – a visit that could have a huge impact on the Newark, New Jersey stars college decision. Samuels will arrive in Louisville Friday and spend the weekend with Rick Pitino and the Cardinals.

Pitino, though, will have his work cut out for him if he hopes to sway Samuels to U of L. North Carolina, Samuels' dream school growing up, leads a pack that also includes Connecticut, Florida, Rutgers, St. John's and Seton Hall.

"Carolina is the favorite right now," said Karriem Memminger, Samuels' AAU coach who will accompany him on his visit to Louisville. "He liked his visit there and the whole tradition and atmosphere. He grew up in Jamaica and all he knew was North Carolina."

So does Louisville or any other school on Samuels' list still have a chance?

"That's why we're going to visit Louisville this weekend and going back to UConn," Memminger said. "Louisville is right there and so is UConn. We're leaving Friday to come down to Louisville and we'll probably visit UConn the following weekend. Then we'll sit down, talk things over and go over the pro's and con's of each school and figure out what he wants to do."

Memminger broke down Samuels' options.

"If he goes away from home for school, it will be either Louisville, North Carolina or UConn," he said. "If he stays home, it will be Rutgers, St. John's or Seton Hall."

Louisville hopes to land Samuels
and close pal Tyreke Evans.

Louisville has a unique pitch for Samuels. Pitino wants to package him and Tyreke Evans, the nation's eighth-ranked prospect, together in a loaded 2008 recruiting class. Memminger said that's an appealing thought for Samuels.

The Cardinals also have another factor that could work in their favor. While some schools are recruiting Samuels to make hay in the paint, Pitino has told Samuels and those close to him that he wants to develop his perimeter skills – something that would benefit Samuels chances for long-term prosperity in the NBA.

"Louisville is right there," Memminger said. "They are trying to get Tyreke Evans and Samardo to come to Louisville together. They want Samardo to come in and be like Jamal Mashburn and do some different things out on the court. Some schools are recruiting Samardo as strictly an inside player, but Coach Pitino wants to develop his skills and bring them out.

"Samardo likes Coach Pitino and that he's helped get a lot of guys to the NBA. Samardo knows all about Coach Pitino's reputation for developing players for the league and the fact that he coached in the NBA with Boston and New York helps. And Steve Masiello has worked very hard recruiting Samardo."

Memminger said that Evans and Samuels talk often about playing together in college. The two are close friends and apparently are intrigued with the idea of teaming together at the next level.

"Tyreke is Samardo's boy. That's his guy," Memminger said. "Tyreke and Samardo have known each other for a while since the Nike Camp and they were actually roommates one summer. Tyreke recently came up here to play with Samardo in the IS8 tournament. He wants to play with a good guard who can get him the ball."

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