The biggest news in the world of Louisville athletics right now is the accurate report that both Earl Clark and Derrick Caracter are in town and attending class.
Now even though I don't have anything especially earth-shattering to report here, I feel like we should discuss some things before diving into this.
I'm a blogger who doesn't think that blogs - save the occasional site with a proven track record when it comes to reporting news - ought to be taken particularly seriously (gasp). Winston Churchill said, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." Well, the best argument against a complete "New Media" takeover is a Google blog search. The best and worst thing about the Internet is that it gives a voice to millions of people who would have otherwise never been heard. I loved the goofy kid in high school who smoked up every morning and told awful stoner jokes during first period as much as anyone, but I don't want to hear his take on the three-point line moving back any more than I want him spearheading peace negotiations in the Middle East.
Since a pay cut isn't even a blip on my radar screen of worries, I have the luxury of being able to post whatever I want, whenever I want (Steve Masiello is an alien). Still, because I enjoy being taken at least half-seriously, I ordinarily opt not to pass along rumors until they've been confirmed by the Courier, Herald-Leader or some national publication with a trusted reputation (Country Line Magazine). I do know a handful of people fairly close to the program - probably as many as a lot of you (anyone can do it!) - which has helped me keep a relatively firm grasp on the reality of all things U of L, and even break news...twice. But if one of these people were to inadvertently lead me astray, I'm not going to leave them an irate voicemail, sever the relationship, or un-invite them to my birthday party.
I love this site, but its main purpose - and I think the vast majority of you are aware of this - isn't to report news. If you're looking to take a piece of info to the bank, wait until you hear it from the mouth (figuratively) of Pat Forde, Brian Bennett or Karla Jean Jennings (Country Line Magazine).
All that said, here's my understanding of the current situation with Caracter and Clark.
Derrick Caracter wants to come back
This isn't anything new. He's wanted to return for his junior season since late February, but I think the recent conversations he and those around him have had with NBA folks in the know have driven him to the point of desperation.
The decision ultimately rests in the hands of the same man who told him no before.
Pitino certainly realizes that his current frontcourt situation for '08-'09 is less than ideal. If Jennings didn't qualify or if Samuels got hurt, then the Cards would automatically morph into the 2008 Kentucky Wildcats. If Jennings didn't qualify AND Samuels got hurt, then the Cards would automatically morph into the 2007 Marquette Golden Eagles. Pitino has stated that he's still looking to add a big man to next year's roster, but I think it's safe to assume that anybody signed at this hour is going to be a player of a caliber that won't warrant a great deal of trust.
Obviously, a player with Caracter's size and skill would be an enormous boon for next year's team. But has Pitino simply had too much? I mean at this point we're talking about a leash you could use to hang a Chihuahua from a footstool (don't picture it, it'll ruin your morning).
Again, I don't think Derrick is - by modern standards - a bad apple, I just think he's remarkably lazy and immature. While these pair of characteristics would make Pitino wary of bringing DC back in any year, he has to be especially worried about what type of effect Caracter's presence would have on a high-profile freshman who just happens to play the same position.
On the flip side, I think there is a chance that Samardo Samuels could end up being the best thing that ever happened to Caracter. Sure, Derrick is 20-years-old and Samuels's superior by two classes, but he might as well be 13 as far as this discussion is concerned. Samuels is, by most accounts, remarkably mature and level-headed for his age, and doesn't strike me as the type of kid who's going to let another's poor attitude rub off on him.
Scouts used to rave about Caracter's ability to step up and get the better of Greg Oden when the two faced-off at summer camps, and I do think it's possible that this would wind up being a similar situation. A child won't grow up until those around him do, and having to go against a comparably talented, comparably sized, more driven younger player every day in practice could be precisely the cure for what ails Derrick Caracter.
As exciting as this ideal scenario is, I have a hard time seeing it coming to fruition. Not because I don't think the possibility of Caracter coming around is real, but because I just can't see Pitino caving and bringing him back. Given the potential risks and what having Derrick on the team the past two seasons has put Pitino through, it's hard to blame him.
Earl Clark does not want to come back
Clark is every bit as set on hearing his name called by David Stern this June as he was a week ago.
My assumption is that his going back to class is merely a precaution should a Brandon Rush situation play out in the weeks leading up to the draft. There are only two weeks left in the semester, so really it'd be foolish for him not to finish up his sophomore year.
The only way Clark plays another game in a Louisville uniform is if in the next two months he either gets hurt or performs so poorly in pre-draft camps that everyone tells him he's not going to be taken in the first round.
It's not going to happen, and so all we can do is wish him well in the league.