Rumblings & Grumblings: What Will Pitino Do With 2012 Class?

Posted: July 6, 2011 by robjoneslyes in Louisville Basketball, Posted by Rob Jones

From NyDailyNews.com

Today was the first day coaches could go out and watch prospective recruits play basketball. The July Evaluation Period as it is called in the recruiting circles. Coaches can’t actually talk to the guys that might take them to the promise land in the near future…they can just watch…which makes absolutely perfect sense when it comes to the way things are handled in the NCAA.

The only thing you can compare it to is a Peep Show at some slimy adult store off a remote highway. Not that I’ve ever been to such an establishment, but I’ve heard stories that give me the gist of what they are all about. You can look…and gawk… and become infatuated with…but dare attempt to touch or talk…it’s curtains. It might not be the most politically correct comparison for millionaire college coaches evaluating 15-18 year-olds, but it’s the best example I’ve heard. It fits perfectly. Recruiting is a sleazy world, but interesting nonetheless.

All that being said, at least the coaches can actually watch the players for a few weeks without getting beat about the face with a wet noodle by the NCAA. Coach Pitino and his new staff of Wyking Jones, Kevin Keatts, and son Richard hit the scene today in search of 2 players in the 2012 class (according to Pitino) and build relationships with the ’13 and ’14 classes. First stop was the adidas Invitational in Indianapolis.

Just to rehash, Pitino & co. started off the 2012 recruiting class strong with commitments from top-flight guards in Rodney Purvis and Negus Webster-Chan. Then came the recent assistant coaching turnover with Steve Massielo and Tim Fuller leaving the school leading Purvis and Chan to re-open their recruitment. Purvis has since been quoted that he would still be a committed had coach Fuller stayed. Chan has since fell out of Scout.com’s Top 100.

Looking at the depth chart for 2012 (assuming no one goes pro), the Cards’ biggest needs would be a swingman to replace departing seniors Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith along with some depth on the front line should Jared Swopshire depart or Rakeem Buckles struggle to recover from knee surgery. There is also the possibility of PG Peyton Siva leaving for the NBA, which Pitino said he would prepare for, but is highly unlikely. Another option would be some post help should incoming freshman Zach Price not work out according to plan. So, basically the Cards don’t necessarily need help in one particular position, but that could change as the season progresses. Here is what the 2012 depth chart would look like with all underclassmen coming back…

PG- Peyton Siva, Elisha Justice, Kevin Ware

SG– Wayne Blackshear, Kevin Ware

SF– Jared Swopshire, Angel Nunez, Luke Hancock (transfer from George Mason)

PF– Chane Behanan, Rakeem Buckles, Steve Van Treese

C- Gorgui Dieng, Zach Price, Steve Van Treese

Not bad…Not bad at all.

I believe Pitino has the ability to take the best available talent in 2012 and not get caught empty-handed like he has in previous years. With that depth chart, the team will be solid even in a doomsday-like scenario. I can imagine the dream scenario for the Pitino staff would be a combination of either SF Alex Pothyress of Nashville, SG Gary Harris of Indy, or PG D’Vantes Smith-Rivera of Oak Hill. All are ranked in the top 25 overall by Scout, all fit the needs of the teams, all are talented enough, and all have the Cards high on their early lists. The flip side is, all are being recruited by the best of the best including UCLA, Michigan St., Duke, UNC and (gulp) Kentucky. That $7 million Pitino cashed last year and his new staff will be put to test early in attempting to put together a class like that with the talent coming back.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that either Wayne Blackshear or Chane Behanan leave early as well, but like Siva, it’s also highly unlikely. None of the 3 are projected first rounders by any of the major mock draft site and only Siva is listed as a second round possibility. A new NBA collective bargaining agreement could make it an impossibility for Blackshear and Behanan to even attempt to leave. Cards’ fans have seen worse, so this scenario will not be ruled out until all 3 are back in red and black about a year from now. That would give Pitino room to bring in a bigger class.

Other possibilities in 2012 who Pitino likely will miss out on are #1 C Andre Drummond (likely headed to UCONN), #3 C DaJuan Coleman (son of Derrick, likely headed to Syracuse), #1 overall player G Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA or Kentucky), and former commit G Rodney Purvis (left Cards off last narrowed list). All are listed as showing interest in the Cards by Scout.com, but I would be absolutely shocked if the Cards got even a visit from any of them.

If Pitino decides to go the big-man route, C Joel James of Palm Beach Gardens, FL, who was coached in AAU by Louisville director of basketball ops Mark Lieberman with the Florida Rams, would be a logical play due to his relationship with both Lieberman and former AAU teammate Rakeem Buckles. Also, Mitch McGary of Brewster Academy in NH via Indianapolis is soaring up the charts and has received interest from the Cards’ staff in recent moths, according to multiple outlets. Should Pitino decide he can afford to take a quality big-man, I wouldn’t be surprised if it came from one of those two. However, many believe it will be hard for Pitino to grab a top-notch center with Dieng, Van Treese, and Price hogging all the playing-time that first year.

Point guard targets include J-Mychal Reese of Texas (who plans to visit campus according to Jody Demling), Kris Dunn of New London, CT (who is listed as interested by Scout and not Rivals, but is close with Wyking Jones according to Demling). Both are highly sought after, but will take a back-seat to Smith-Rivera when it comes to who the staff’s main focus is on…in my opinion.

Of course, by the time you have read this a kid will have changed his mind and eliminated the Cards completely or another guy will suddenly show up on Pitino’s radar. It’s just how recruiting works. However, if the 2 guys that make up the 2012 freshman class are a combination of either DSR, Harris, Pothyress, James or McGary; coach Pitino will be a happy camper and the Cards will be re-loaded for 2012.

That’s assuming Siva, Blackshear and Behanan stay…

God, I hate recruiting.

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