Had a chance to talk to Louisville coach Rick Pitino last week at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
The Cardinals coach who won a national championship in April talked about the recruiting success he’s had in Seattle.
“We have a Seattle pipeline that’s been very good to us,” he said. “It’s a fertile area with some of the best basketball at the high-school level in the country.”
Pitino said Louisville was able to establish a foothold in Seattle through building relationships with high school and AAU coaches.
It all started with former Rainier Beach star Terrence Williams who chose the Cardinals over Indiana and Kansas in 2005. The versatile wing was a co-captain of the 2008-09 squad and he’s the only player in school history with two triple-double games. He was selected 11th overall in the 2009 NBA draft.
The same year Franklin star Peyton Siva picked Louisville over Washington, Arizona and Miami (Fla). He was a four-year contributor and three-year starter who helped the Cards to two Final Fours and a national title. He also won two Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player awards and was taken in the second round (56th overall) in the NBA draft.
Shaqquan Aaron is the next Seattle-to-Louisville standout. The Rainier Beach High senior forward is considered a four-star prospect by the major recruiting services. Rivals ranks him 27th nationally and ESPN 53rd.
Pitino said Siva and Williams have helped bolster Louisville’s reputation in Seattle.
“The more success those guys have, the more the younger ones – the next generation – sees that and affiliates that to Louisville,” Pitino said. “They’re our greatest ambassadors. They sell the program better than I ever could.”
Pitino called Siva and Florida coach Billy Donovan the best players he’s ever coached.
Siva said Louisville has more talent this season than it did last season, but Pitino downplayed the Cardinals’ chances of winning back-to-back championships.
“I love Peyton to death, but that type of talk isn’t helping us,” Pitino said laughing. “We have talent for sure, but we’ll see where the leadership comes from. That’s what Peyton gave us. He was special in that sense.”
— In the Los Angeles basketball recruiting war, new USC coach Andy Enfield beat out new UCLA coach Steve Alford in the battle over highly touted point guard Jordan McLaughlin.
— Enfield is drawing early rave reviews partly because he hired to assistants with West Coast roots.
— One-time Washington prospect Isaac Hamilton is going to UCLA. The five-star 2013 recruit who chose UTEP over UW, Baylor, UNLV and San Diego State was denied a waiver by the National Letter of Intent committee. He’ll sit out this season, per NCAA transfer rules.
— ESPN’s Andy Katz analyzed the non-conference schedules for the Pac-12 teams and determined Arizona and Colorado have the most difficult schedules. He ranked Washington in the middle of the pack.