BOZICH & CRAWFORD | Pitino talks recruiting, season opener -- fo - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH & CRAWFORD | Pitino talks recruiting, season opener -- four highlights

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino updated the media on Wednesday, talking about his latest recruiting class and Friday’s regular-season opener against Evansville.

Four highlights:

1). RECRUITING UPDATE. Pitino introduced his latest recruiting class, which he has been calling for some time “the best in my 16 years at Louisville.” He said he has stressed the importance of shooting while identifying potential targets, and that he recruited this class with an up-tempo style in mind.

The program received national letters of intent from Darius Perry, a 6-2 guard from Powder Springs, Fla., Lance Thomas, a 6-8 forward from Norcross, Ga., and Malik Williams, a 6-11 center from Fort Wayne, Ind.

Perry is ranked 53rd nationally in the ESPN 100, and chose U of L over Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Wake Forest.

“From the first time I saw him, I knew Darius was made for Louisville,” Pitino said. “He can shoot, is defensive-minded and can get up on you and press you for 94 feet.”

Thomas chose Louisville over Florida, USC, and Miami. He’s ranked No. 76 nationally by 247Sports, but Pitino said, “Lance has as much potential as any player that I have recruited. He’s long, shoots and passes well and really understands the game. He’s extremely raw with unlimited potential.”

Williams averaged 21.2 points and 13.1 rebounds last season, and is ranked No. 21 nationally by scout.com.

“I told the staff if he sneezes, I wanted to be there to say, ‘God bless you,’” Pitino said. “We wanted him that much.. . . Malik has unique abilities at his size. He has a lot of Kevin Durant in him, in terms of being able to step out with great range to make shots, put it on the floor, rebound, block shots, and he’s extremely long, at 6-11. He does it all.”

The trio gives Pitino a consensus Top 10 class in the fall period.

2). EVANSVILLE HYPE. Pitino has more respect for Evansville than Missouri Valley coaches and media members or than the pre-season computer rankings by Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin.

Pitino described Louisville’s schedule as one of the toughest in the nation, in part because the Cardinals open with non-league home games against Evansville (Friday), William & Mary (Monday) and Long Beach State (Thursday).

“We wanted to play teams with three returning starters who are ranked in the Top 100 in the RPI,” Pitino said. 

According to statistics from gopurpleaces.com, Evansville’s athletic website, the Purple Aces return two starters and one (senior Blake Simmons) is out for the season with a knee injury.

Guard Jaylon Brown is the only one of Evansville’s top six scorers who will play against the Cards at the KFC Yum! Center Friday at 7 p.m.

Pitino also complimented Evansville coach Marty Simmons, whose team runs a motion offense. Simmons learned the motion offense when he played his first two college seasons at Indiana for Bob Knight before transferring to Evansville.

The Purple Aces were picked to finish ninth in the 10-team MVC in a vote of coaches and media members last month in St. Louis. Evansville will start this season ranked 144th in Pomeroy’s computer power numbers and 208 in Sagarin. 

Evansville is ranked 84th in the pre-season Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

3). PLANNING FOR 2018. Check the roster of Pitino’s team. You’ll find two players in their final season of college basketball — David Levitch, a walk-on guard, and Tony Hicks, a fifth-year transfer from Penn.

If you’re an early bird and making a list of top contenders for the 2018 NCAA title, Pitino wants you to include his team on the list of contenders.

Not only will the Cardinals add a solid four-player recruiting class, walk-on Dwayne Sutton will be eligible to play for his hometown team. Sutton will practice but not play with the Cards this season after transferring from North Carolina-Asheville. He played high school basketball for Manual.

“We think we will be as strong as the 2013 (NCAA championship) team,” Pitino said.

4). POLITICAL CONCERNS. Pitino did not talk politics, other than to say that he encouraged his players to vote Tuesday and that one of his foreign-born players received a post-election telephone call from his father.

Anas Mahmoud, the Cards’ junior center, is from Cairo, Egypt. Mahmoud told Pitino that his father, Osama Mahmoud, called to ask if he was concerned by the results of the U.S Presidential election.

“He said, ‘Are you OK, son?’ “ Pitino said.

Pitino then upgraded the call into a joke. The coach said that he asked U of L basketball sports information director Kenny Klein to check with the local FBI office to determine if Mahmoud’s was in jeopardy of being deported.

No, he is not.

“But we were told that we do deport people for only grabbing one defensive rebound,” Pitino said.

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