Anthony Barber is likely Louisville’s top overall prospect at this point
The annual Peach Jam in Augusta, Ga., is the finishing event of the Nike AAU circuit and provides a championship stage for all of the EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League) teams still in contention. It’s also the one event that houses the most college coaches over the three day span. Every major coach in the national spotlight will be in attendance at least one day to show their face and support their recruiting targets. Rick Pitino is expected to be there today or tomorrow and will have no shortage of faces to take in. With a wide net cast on the 2013 class, this could provide one final look at some of the top Louisville targets in one of the most competitive scenarios. This is typically a time when coaches begin to narrow their focus, tighten up that once-wide net and really hone in on their top priorities. Right now the Louisville head coach and his staff are in good shape with a number of top-50 prospects, including front court players Moses Kingsley, Karviar Shepherd, Jabari Parker, Kyle Washington, Chris Walker, Kentan Facey, Jermaine Lawrence, Kennedy Meeks, Jordan Mickey, Jarell Martin and Troy Williams, as well as guards JaJuan Johnson, Demetrius Jackson, Tyler Ennis, Anthony Barber, Sindarius Thornwell and Isaac Hamilton. And there’s sure to be a few new names added to the list before the end of the weekend. Factor in all of those names as well as the commitment of top-30 shooting guard Anton Gill, and this has the potential makings of one of Pitino’s very best classes.
Fresh off a Final Four with an aggressive, young staff in place, Louisville has returned to the forefront of the recruiting world and is poised to land another top-10 class. But with the second live evaluation period now in effect, coupled with so many targets to actively recruit, now is the time to sift through the debris and pick 6-7 guys and make them their top priorities. I imagine the staff will take what they see this weekend, and then put together their own board with options A and B at every position. I also think with Gill in the fold and a promising young frontcourt already in place, they could have the luxury of simply taking the best players available – regardless of position. Also, depending on how this upcoming season goes, there could be more open scholarships than exist at this point. With only Peyton Siva, Mike Marra and Stephan Van Treese officially listed as seniors, we know there’s at least three scholarships open for 2013. But if the Cards were to return to the Final Four – or beyond – and players like Wayne Blackshear, Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng all have big seasons, there could easily be more scholly’s to fill. So, with uncertainty looming, how should the staff approach things?
Well, if the last few seasons have taught us anything, it’s that the scholarship situation always works itself out. Therefore, I have a hard time believing that the staff doesn’t approach this year with the mindset of taking as many players as possible. Meaning, at least 3, but more likely 4 or 5. Which should indicate that they too believe that they’ll likely lose at least one of the aforementioned current players. Plus, let’s not forget, the team currently sits one scholarship under the limit. With incoming freshman Terry Rozier’s status still unknown, that could potentially be another open spot for next year. So, back to the topic at hand – narrowing the recruiting focus. Who should become Louisville’s absolute top priorities? Judging on what the recruiting experts have told us in print and on radio, after viewing multiple videos and hearing reports of pick-up games, here’s how my list would look:
A: Anthony Barber – Scout.com’s #9 ranked player overall, down to Louisville, Alabama and Kansas.
B: Tyler Ennis – I say stay on top of this one for now, but bail if you don’t get a visit soon. He’s been a reported Syracuse lean all along. He’s scout.com’s #22 player overall.
C. Demetrius Jackson – we’ll use three players here at PG because, as mentioned, I have a feeling that the staff will end up bailing on Ennis in a few months. Jackson is a rising prospect and has serious interest in the Cards.
A. Anton Gill – whether or not he was their first choice, Louisville got a steal in this kid. Currently ranked #27 overall by Scout.com.
B. JaJuan Johnson – NBA sized wing at 6-6, he’s an explosive scorer and top-notch athlete. He’s already been on campus and has high interest in the Cards. Turn up the heat and make him a top priority. Currently ranked #32 by Scout.com.
SF / PF
I think there’s a few guys who have interchangeable skills at these forward spots, so rather than list A and B for both, here’s the top four names I think the staff will focus on:
1. Chris Walker – With Jabari Parker likely a pipe-dream, Walker is the most highly touted and skilled of all the big men Louisville’s recruiting. He’s got the Cards in his final four and they’re serious players in this recruitment. He’s listed as a center by some scouting services, but he’ll play the 4 at the next level. Currently ranked #7 overall by Scout.com.
2. Jarell Martin – It’s time to turn up the heat on Martin. A multi-dimensional player with incredible skill, Martin will be tough to pull out of the Louisiana / Mississippi area, but he’s been to campus and has always stayed firm in his backing of the Louisville program.
3. Troy Williams – Although I still think the chances of pulling the nephew of an elite Nike AAU rep to an Adidas school are very unlikely, it’s still worth pursuing Williams due to his strong connection with Cat Barber. Not to mention the fact that the kid can play. He’s down to five schools and Louisville is in the mix. He’s currently ranked #36 overall by Scout.com.
Jordan Mickey – He’s a bit inconsistent from what we hear on the AAU scene, but he has the talent, size and skillset to be a tremendous player at the next level. He’s also visited the Louisville campus and has the Cards high on his list. Currently ranked #33 overall by Scout.com.
A. Moses Kingsley – First off, it’s just not a great class for centers. Pure and simple. Aside from BeeJay Anya, there’s no elite, dominant big man. That said, Kingsley, a Nigerian native, has visited the Louisville campus, has the Cards in his top-5 and has an incredible up-side. He’s still raw offensively, but he appears to be a Gorgui Dieng clone already capable of blocking shots at a high clip and running the floor very well. He’s currently ranked #69 overall by Scout.com.
B. Karviar Shepherd – I would have put Kennedy Meeks in this spot, but I’ve heard too many conflicting reports on whether or not the staff is truly interested in the wide-bodied North Carolina big man. On the other hand, we know that there’s definite interest in the 6-9 Arlington, Texas native, Shepherd. He’s been a steady riser on the AAU circuit and the staff has turned up the pressure lately. I would have listed him as the first option, but he’s yet to to truly narrow his list, he’s never been to campus and it’s been a long time since Louisville pulled a player from the state of Texas. He’s currently ranked #49 overall by Scout.com.
* If there’s a wildcard at the center position at this point, it could be Kyle Washington. The 6-9 PF /C has received an offer from Louisville, but the recruitment is still in its infancy stage at this point.
With the Peach Jam in full swing, we’ll keep tabs on all the latest recruiting information throughout the next several days as the staff looks to narrow its focus and begin making moves to secure their next commitment for the class of 2013.