Huge and ridiculously awesome news from the recruiting world late Tuesday night as Samardo Samuels, the sixth best player in the country according to Scout, has committed to play basketball for Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals.
The 6-foot-9, 230-pound big man out of St. Benedict Prep in Newark, N.J. had long been considered North Carolina's to lose, leaving Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports to describe his commitment to U of L as "stunning."
"They offered me a better opportunity to play and show my talent," Samuels told Scout.com. "I'll be surrounded by good players and we can win a national championship in my first year and I can get a lot of playing time."
A native of Jamaica who has only been playing basketball for about four years, Samuels has the body of a Big Ten linebacker and uses it to snag anything that comes off of the rim, or toss anything that's heading towards it. He also possesses a great deal of raw offensive skill that will only improve as he begins to further understand the game. He averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds for St. Benedict's, which finished 24-1 and was ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today for one week before falling to in-state rival St. Patrick.
"Some compare him to Elton Brand, Chris Webber and even Karl Malone," Karriem Memminger, one of his AAU coaches for the Metro Hawks and a close family friend told The Courier-Journal. "He's a guy you know is going to give you 20-15 (points-rebounds) and maybe even 25-12 every game."
Samuels said that he thought his visit to Louisville last weekend was going to be "just another trip," but he was swayed by the two hours he spent talking with Pitino as well as the time he spent quickly bonding with fellow Jersey natives Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter.
"I bonded with them," he said. "That made it real easy. They were cool. They wanted me to come."
The other great thing about Samuels' commitment is that he is close friends with the guy who might wind up being the crown jewel of Pitino's '08 class: Tyreke Evans.
Judging by what Samuels told Adam Zagoria Tuesday night, the 6-4 guard out of Aston, PA seems to be eager to join his buddy in Minardi Hall.
"From what he told me, he's pretty much down," Samuels told Zagoria of Evans. "Hopefully, I can get a couple players to come with me now."
The relatively unexpected verbal from Samuels also helps alleviate many of the fears that arose last week when San Diego big man Jeff Withey decommitted from the Cards.
"It's a great get (for U of L) in that they need a big guy," Hoop Scoop editor Clark Francis told the C-J. "If I could take Jeff Withey or Samardo Samuels, I would take Samuels in a heartbeat."
You'll be able to see Samuels for yourself on Dec. 13 when his St. Benedict squad takes on Oak Hill in Marshall County, KY in a game that will be televised by ESPN2. As an appetizer, you can check out highlights of the future Cardinal and current man child in the video below: