Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Louisville emerges with win over Memphis, but recruiting has gone dry for now
NEW YORK — Louisville emerged from Madison Square Garden with an 81-72 win over Memphis on Saturday afternoon to improve to 8-2 on the season.
Quentin Snider led the way with a season-high 19 points along with 5 assists and 3 rebounds to earn the Gotham Classic MVP Award, V.J. King had 17 points and Deng Adel 15.
Despite the FBI investigation into bribery in college basketball that cost AD Tom Jurich and head coach Rick Pitino their jobs, the Cardinals are poised for a potential NCAA Tournament bid come March. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently has them as a No. 7 seed.
The problem is, their recruiting has gone dry for the future.
“I don’t think you’re going to get a kid in the country to commit to Louisville until they know who the head coach is going to be moving forward,” interim head coach David Padgett said after the win. “But like I’ve said before, that’s not my concern, that’s not our players’ concern, that’s not our staff’s concern. We really are just trying to focus on winning right now.
“We’ve been just trying to win. Obviously when you win it helps your brand. We’re just trying to focus on the season and let the future take care of itself.”
Padgett’s current deal runs through September 2018 (meaning he could recruit in April and July), but after that the future remains foggy. If Padgett does guide this Cardinals team to the NCAA Tournament, he could well become the full time replacement for Pitino.
“Whenever that comes down, whenever they come back and say whatever they say, I think more than anything for the program, I think it will just be closure, I guess,” Padgett, 32, said earlier this week. “We can put it behind us, move on. But there’s so many questions marks right now with the future of the program, more than anything who’s going to be the coach? And until you know that, that’s the biggest question mark from a recruiting standpoint.”
Louisville doesn’t have a single commit in the 2018 or ’19 classes and has taken its hits on the recruiting trail.
In September, five-star guard Anfernee Simons and four-star guard Courtney Ramey both decommitted, while five-star guard Romeo Langford cut Louisville from his list. In October, 7-foot-2 big man Moses Brown also announced that he was no longer considering Louisville.
Simons, now at IMG Academy (FL), is eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft and is being courted by Tennessee, N.C. State and Dayton, among others. He will decide in the spring whether to explore the NBA Draft process or spend a year in college. ESPN currently has him as the No. 19 pick in the Draft.
Ramey visited Oklahoma State and plans to visit Texas after Christmas and Villanova and UCLA in February. He also lists Louisville, Missouri and Ohio State.
Langford is down to Kansas, Indiana and Vanderbilt and plans to commit in the spring.
Brown is focusing on Maryland, Florida State and UCLA, while Kentucky coach John Calipari has also visited him twice this fall.
After this season, Louisville will lose seniors Quentin Snider and Anas Mahmoud, while sophomore forward V.J. King, junior forward Ray Spalding and junior forward Deng Adel could all test the NBA Draft waters.
Next year’s starting five could include freshman guards Darius Perry and Jordan Nwora, freshman forward Malik Williams, sophomore forward Dwyane Sutton and junior center Steven Enoch, the UConn transfer.
So the Cardinals will still have a strong base next year, but at some point they will need to add recruits for future classes.
It remains unclear how that will go and who might become the first recruit to commit in the wake of the scandal, but a strong season this year under Padgett should help recruiting.
“At the end of the day, 5-10 years from now,” Padgett said, “it’s still going to be Louisville basketball.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.