City of Louisville Hoops Renaissance Could Be Big Boon for Pitino, U of L

07/11/2011 09:37 AM

The early returns on the July summer basketball circuit indicate that the city of Louisville is on the verge of a high school basketball renaissance.
The Louisville Magic AAU team won the adidas Invitational over the weekend, paced by local stars DeAngelo Russell and Quentin Snider. The Magic have also been the early story at this week’s Kentucky Hoop Fest, winning a game on Monday by the score of 133-21 (not a typo).
Russell and Snider are both sophomores-to-be at Central and Ballard, respectively, and both have already positioned themselves to be Top 50 national players in the Class of 2014.
Central Coach Doug Bibby said earlier this summer that Russell, a 6-2 lefty combo guard, is more advanced at this stage than NBA All-Star Rajon Rondo (Bibby coached Rondo at Eastern). Snider first burst onto the scene as an eighth-grader at Fern Creek and started as a freshman for the Bruins.
The Magic, coached by former U of L player Ellis Myles, are starting to blow up nationally and have given the state of Kentucky its strongest AAU presence in years. According to the Courier-Journal’s Jody Demling , Russell currently holds an offer from Xavier and Snider from Tennessee Tech, but with all of the country’s top coaches getting a glimpse of them this month, that list figures to get a lot longer in a hurry.
Scout.com and Insidetheville.com recruiting analyst Raashaan Myers has been covering the Magic on the summer circuit and thinks Russell could end up being a Top 20 national recruit with Snider in the 30-40 range.
“Those two guys are the real deal,” Myers said. “Russell’s No. 1 right now, but you’d have to put Snider at 1A. They’re both going to be big-time.”
The renaissance of prep basketball in the Derby City comes at a great time for Louisville Coach Rick Pitino. It’s not a question of if Louisville offers Russell and Snider, just a matter of when. And if Pitino can eventually score commitments from two local products who figure to be among the best in their class, it would provide some much-needed positive P.R. on the recruiting trail.
Plus, Denny Crum’s most successful U of L teams always had a local flavor. His 1980 NCAA Championship team featured Darrell Griffith and Jerry Eaves. The ’86 title team had Herbert Crook as key cog with Mr. Basketball Tony Kimbro coming off the bench as a freshman.
The Cards would land two more Mr. Basketball’s from the city of Louisville in the ’90s: Dwayne Morton (Central) and Jason Osborne (Male). But after Osborne, the Derby City talent well seemed to dry up. Starting with Male’s Wesley Cox in 1973 and ending with Osborne in 1993, the city produced nine Mr. Basketball’s. Louisville has produced just one since, Jeffersontown’s Domonic Tilford (2005), who signed with Cincinnati before transferring and have a nice career at South Alabama.
Crum never quite got the Cards back to the glory days in the 90’s, and this coincided with the Derby City dry spell. There hasn’t been much local talent for Rick Pitino to tap into, either. Pitino took a flier on Larry O’Bannon shortly after his arrival in Louisville, and that panned out nicely. He let Rajon Rondo slip away, and that burned him big-time. Donta Smith never made it to campus. Other than that, though, there hasn’t been much for Pitino to choose from.
That is clearly changing, though. Bullitt East’s Derek Willis has established himself one of the Class of 2013’s top forwards, but he’s committed to Purdue. There’s also a lot of buzz surrounding another top junior, Trinity’s Darryl Hicks, who sat out last year after transferring from Shelby County.
And Kentucky’s overall Class of 2014 is shaping up to the best Kentucky has seen in a long, long time. Myers said that two more members of the Magic AAU team, Henry Clay’s Jordan Green and Trey Grundy, will be heavily-recruited nationally. And Lafayette’s Jackson Davis is also expected to be a blue-chipper.
That’s two big-timers in the city of Louisville (Russell and Snider) and three up the road in Lexington (Green, Grundy and Davis). Green and Grundy are reportedly UK fans, and Davis is the son of former Wildcat player Johnathan Davis. If you think the drama between Pitino and John Calipari has been juicy this far, things figure to get really good in the next couple of years as we watch the two coaches jockey for position with the state’s young talent. Pitino could make a huge statement by winning some of those battles, and taking care of business in his own backyard would be a great place to start.

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