Louisville ’09-10 Preview
Pitino & Co. are ready to reload and prosper.
Rick Pitino hit the recruiting trails hard last month, going out guns-a-blazing to cop top-tier talent like 7-0 center Fabricio Del Melo to pen. Unfortunately, the Brazilian behemoth committed to Syracuse after a summer that saw coaches drooling over the big neophyte. That’s not to say Pitino doesn’t have a core of young guns lined up for the future.
Pitino already netted Josh Langford, a highly decorated Class of 2010 small forward. A four-star recruit, Langford boasts freakish athleticism and a nose for the basketball. I watched this cat make some steals that only rarified athletes on this level can make during the National Invitational in Springfield, MA. He also contributed an eye-popping block and proved he could sky for boards. The 6-7 southpaw from Huntsville, AL, has already grown into a Big East body.
Of course, with Jeremy Tyler taking the Brandon Jennings route and sidestepping the collegiate experience to play overseas (before entering his name into the draft), Pitino also lost a high-profile recruit. So, hounding down top-flight gamers is a workaday summer regimen the longtime general embraces.
Biding adieu to players such as Terrence Williams and Earl Clark may not have been as easy. Not to worry. Pitino returns an ultra-athletic and skilled interior presence in Samardo Samuels. The Jamaica native flourished as the season progressed, establishing himself as an interior presence. He was one of the Big East’s top freshman.
The Cardinals looked at this past season as a failure. An overall wasted season. Adding salt to the wound, the circus trekked to the bluegrass following rape allegations against Pitino. The coach admitted that he had consensual sex and shelled out $3,000 for her abortion. Now the plaintiff is trying to extort Pitino for a prince’s ransom. While the incident has likely no affect on his job, the media circus sideshow could create a distraction.
Samardo Samuels | 6-9 | F | Sophomore
The games get bigger, Samuels gets better. One of the Big East’s premiere rookies (he was edged out by Georgetown’s Greg Monroe in the Big East Rookie of the Year Race), Samuels progressed as the season went along. He posted 12.5 points and 5 boards and showed major promise.
Edgar Sosa | 6-2 | G | Senior
If he decides to put the clamps on someone, an act he’s shied away from the past few years, Sosa can emerge into a major guard in this league. Consistency has been the Achilles heel for the Bronx Boy who dropped 31 on Butler before coughing up crucial free throws during the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
Sosa is capable of light it up, as an 18-point explosion against Providence proved. The New York guard has had his run-ins with Pitino. Can he buy into his coach’s sophisticated philosophy and become an essential ingredient in the offense?
Preston Knowles | 6-1 | G | Junior
Good shooter who could potentially surface as a proven scorer. Needs to be more consistent and step into a bigger role next season.
Terrence Jennings | 6-9 | F | Sophomore
Meager stats will be jacked up next year if this long forward plays his cards right. He has the potential to be a interior presence to supplement Samuels, as performances against Seton Hall and West Virginia proved.
Jerry Smith | 6-2 | G | Senior
A sharpshooter and solid role player, Smith bleeds perimeter potential. Smith has a quick-trigger and can turn it on when hot. He scorched the nets on multiple occasions, including a 6-point victory over West Virginia and the blood-lettering of Arizona in the NCAA tournament.
Mike Marra | 6-4 | G | Freshman
Rhode Island-bred sniper can dial in from downtown and has springy bounce.
Peyton Silva | 6-0 | G | Freshman
Super-quick, high-energy guard who can shoot, dish, scrape defenders off the dribble and slash. Seattle native has the opportunity to make immediate impact.
Rakeem Buckles | 6-8 | F | Freshman
Strong finisher who can run the floor and soar above the rim. Big body and manpower will be needed for the Cardinals.
Stephen Van Treese | 6-9 | F/C | Freshman
Skilled big man from the prestigious Lawrence North HS in Indiana (Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr’s alma mater) can do it all. Hustles and gets the job done in the paint.
The loss of Terrence Williams may set the program back, but they have enough firepower to cushion it.
Williams took the NCAA by storm last year, using his immense athleticism and full, all-around basketball package. Williams rolled off a resume reel his final year at Louisville. The 6-6 jack-of-all trades boasted versatility, strong transition play, relentless grit, and the ability to score and defend multiple positions. These facets of Williams’ game, coupled with his 12.5 points, 8.6 boards, and 5 assists catapulted the Cardinals into the Big East’s upper-echelon.
The loss of newly minted Phoenix Sun Earl Clark is equally a tough loss. The Cardinals, however, could have the weapons to fill the void in particular categories in which the stat sheet-stuffing Clark prospered.
Zach Smart has written for Big East Basketball Report, Hoops Addict and The East Coast Bias. Read more on his blog.