Two-horse race for Fab Melo?

Fabricio De Melo has been in the United States for less than a year. Still, the 7-foot Brazilian star is creating quite a stir on the recruiting trail. While most schools are just now getting to the starting gate, two Big East programs have jumped out to a huge early lead.

Originally from Brazil, Fabricio De Melo, who will play for Adam Ross at Sagemont (FL) School next season, burst onto the national recruiting scene last weekend in Akron, OH at the King James Tournament.

Two schools, Big East rivals Louisville and UConn, have a big edge in the race to land De Melo. In March, De Melo made unofficial visits to both schools. Somehow, the 7-0, 260-pound center managed to slip out of Louisville and Storrs without creating much of a stir. There was a reason for the low-key nature of both trips.

"I was trying to keep Fab as low profile as I could because I knew at some point his recruitment was going to get out of control and I wanted to give Louisville and Connecticut….they were the two schools that had gotten in early….a real opportunity before the flood-gates open up," Ross said.

Louisville got involved with De Melo last fall after Rick Pitino watched a workout at Sagemont. The Cardinals have been recruiting De Melo ever since.

Rick Pitino has Louisville positioned
to land Fabricio De Melo.

"Louisville was actually the first program to come down and recruit Fab," Ross said. "Coach Pitino came down last (fall) when the recruiting period was open. He came down to watch him workout and immediately fell in love with him and started recruiting him. Louisville's done an absolutely stellar job recruiting him. He's been incredibly diligent and that's why we came up for the Marquette game."

Ross accompanied De Melo and two other Sagemont stars – 2011 prospects Richard Peters and Rod Days – on their trip to Louisville.

"It was great. Fab was thoroughly impressed. It was hard not to be impressed with Freedom Hall and 19,000 screaming, crazy Louisville fans," Ross said. "We had an opportunity to spend a lot of time with the coaching staff and players. It was fantastic. We got to tour the practice facility, see where the guys live and take a tour of campus. It was a heck of a visit and Fab was totally impressed."

Richard Pitino played an active role in Louisville's recruitment of De Melo prior to joining Billy Donovan's staff at Florida this spring. Will that move negatively impact Louisville's recruitment of the 2010 big man?

"I don't think it does," said Ross. "As long as Rick Pitino is the head coach Louisville is going to be a major factor in Fab's recruitment. Fab genuinely likes Coach Pitino and his reputation as a basketball coach is second to none. Any chance you have as a basketball player to go and play for a coaching legend is something you take very seriously."

UConn appears Louisville's stiffest competition for De Melo's services.

"I would say Louisville and UConn remain the top two," Ross said. "There are a lot of schools trying to do the make-up work to catch up with Louisville and UConn. Both places are fantastic and Fab had an opportunity to see games at both schools this season.

"We also saw a tremendous game at UConn on senior night against Notre Dame. I think he was kind of overwhelmed with both places. He can go see other schools (this summer) but they can't simulate those game atmospheres."

Neither school appears to have an edge at this point.

"He had a great time at both places," Ross said. "I honestly believe that he can see himself at either place. That's what makes this decision so difficult."

Besides Louisville and UConn, Ross said the schools on De Melo's "next tier" list include, Florida State, Florida, Syracuse, Miami and Texas. Ross said De Melo will likely visit Louisville and UConn again this summer before he makes a decision.

"I think we're talking about taking a return visit to both places," Ross said. "I'd say there's a decent shot that he goes and visits at least one or two of those other schools just to have a reference point."

It appears a two-horse race between a pair of Big East heavy-weights as De Melo's recruitment approaches the finish line.

"I think we are nearing the end," Ross said. "I don't want to put a specific date on it but I think Fab will make a decision no later than the end of the summer. I can't imagine him getting through the summer and still being open."

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