Samuels, who made an unofficial visit to U of L this weekend, arrived leaning toward North Carolina over Louisville, Connecticut and a few other contenders. After spending a few days with Louisville coach Rick Pitino, however, the Cardinals position in Samuels' recruitment appears much improved.
So how much did the visit help Louisville's cause?
"Very much," said Steve Johnson, Samuels' guardian. "It was a great visit. Coach Pitino and Coach Masiello were great hosts. Louisville was already in Samardo's Top 5 before the visit, but they've moved up significantly. Louisville certainly improved their standing significantly."
Apparently, Pitino had more on his plate over the weekend than a pair of high profile recruiting visits (Top 20 prospect Angel Garcia also visited). According to Johnson, Pitino's wife, Joanne , was injured in an automobile accident just before Samuels arrived in Louisville for his visit.
"We were impressed that he took the time to spend a few minutes with us even though his wife was just involved in an accident and hurt her leg and he had to leave to be with her," Johnson said.
Pitino made a strong impression on the 6-8, 240-pound Samuels.
"He liked Coach Pitino," Johnson said. "He and Coach Pitino spoke one-on-one a couple of times during the visit and he enjoyed that. He's a great teacher and we know he can help Samardo maximize his talent. He loved hanging out with the players and really liked Minardi Hall. Who wouldn't love living in that place?
"He got a good sense of what the Louisville program is about and got to know their players. I was impressed with Derrick Caracter. He talked to Samardo about his up's and down's, but told Samardo that he never once wanted to transfer. By all accounts, we heard good things about Louisville's program."
One of Samuels' concerns about Louisville prior to his visit was the presence of the 6-9 Caracter and 6-8 sophomore forward Earl Clark. Samuels worried that playing time might be limited with those two around. Pitino, though, apparently eased those concerns, noting that both players have professional aspirations and could seemingly bolt for the NBA prior to Samuels arrival.
"That was one of our concerns," Johnson said. "Coach Pitino explained to Samardo that he would have a chance to play right away and get starters minutes."
X-factor for Louisville with
The X-factor for Louisville could be Tyreke Evans. If Pitino can lure the 6-foot-5 star guard to commit to his program it just might be enough incentive for Samuels to follow suit.
"I tell you what could be a big factor – Tyreke Evans could be a big factor," Johnson said. "Samardo and Tyreke are very close friends. Reggie Evans (Tyreke's brother) and I have spoken about the two of them playing together in college.
"Louisville is very confident about getting Tyreke Evans and I understand that Tyreke he is very interested and high on Louisville. Samardo wants to play with a good guard in college and he also wants to go somewhere that he'll get a chance to play right away."
If Evans chose Louisville this summer, could that put Louisville over the top for Samuels?
"That would be helpful," Johnson said.