University of Louisville basketball fans have a chance to get a glimpse at the future during the Neutral Zone Hoops Showcase Saturday night at the Louisville Gardens.
The two-game showcase will feature teams from four states, including 2008 Louisville signee Samardo Samuels of St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.), 2009 UofL commitment Lamont Jones of American Christian School (Aston, Pa.) and Jones' teammate, top 2008 recruit Tyreke Evans, who the Cardinals would like to sign.
The event has a possibility of selling out, so Cardinals fans interested in seeing Samuels, Jones and Evans will need to secure tickets quickly. There are a limited number available through GameSeven Sports Marketing's Web site, www.game-seven.com.
The first game, which will tip off at 7 p.m., pits Samuels and St. Benedict's against New Creations Prep from Richmond, Ind. Rated as the nation's No. 2 power forward and one of the top 10 players in the nation by Rivals.com, the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Samuels was named a McDonald's All-American last week.
Already signed with Louisville, Samuels is expected to arrive on campus this summer to begin taking classes and working out. He's Louisville's first McDonald's All-American since Earl Clark in 2006.
"An automatic double/double-type player, Samuels is a physical force around the basket," according to Rivals.com. "A bruising rebounder, Samuels is also a solid low-post scorer. He has good feet and hands and a soft touch in the paint. His ball-handling and outside shooting are improving, and Samuels passes the ball well out of the post."
A native of Jamaica, Samuels has been playing with St. Benedicts the past three seasons after spending his freshman season at Our Savior New American School in Centerreach, N.Y. He's not expected to have too tough a test against New Creations, but it will be the only chance for UofL fans to see him play before the McDonald's All-American game March 26 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
St. Benedict's Prep beat American Christian 77-70 last week behind Samuels, who had 27 points and 17 rebounds. The victory ensured that the Gray Bees will keep their No. 3 national ranking by both USA Today and Sports Illustrated.
The second game of the Hoops Showcase is scheduled to tip off at 8:30 and will pit Jones, Evans and American Christian against Findlay Prep (Las Vegas), which features UK recruit DeAndre Liggins. Even though the first game may have more buzz because of Samuels, the second game is definitely the headliner, matching two of the nation's top five prep school squads.
With a 21-0 record, Findlay Prep averages 89 points per game. They have four other seniors who have signed Division-I scholarship letters and another player, All-American junior Clarence Trent, who is getting looks from all the top programs in the country. Findlay's running and pressing style will be fun to watch, especially because American Christian has two of the best guards in the nation in Evans and Jones.
Evans is rated the No. 2 point guard and the nation's No. 6 overall player by Rivals.com, and Jones is one of the top shooting guards on the East Coast. Jones made a verbal commitment to Pitino nearly a year ago, and Evans is choosing between Louisville, Memphis, Villanova, Connecticut and Texas, with Louisville and Memphis reported to be his front-runners.
Tickets are available at the Neutral Zone, located at 117 and 227 Blankenbaker Parkway, or on-line at www.game-seven.com. Reserved sideline tickets are $25 each, with general-admission tickets priced at $10 each (each ticket is subject to an additional arena usage fee). A limited number of courtside seats are available for $75 each.