Louisville coach Rick Pitino painted a fairly grim picture of the possibility of big men Amir Johnson and Clay Holloway making it to the Cardinal campus just three weeks ago in a season-wrap-up press conference. Both players seemed to be leaning toward entry into the 2005 NBA Draft. Since then, Holloway told CardinalSports.com and others he intends on passing his test and going to school.
After hearing about Johnson's pro potential for most of the winter and spring, rumors have been circulating in recent weeks that Johnson is still considering college. Now, Coach Pitino told WAVE-3 news that Johnson could be heading to U of L if he gets academically qualified.
"I think Amir Johnson, if he is able to get his grades straight, will be coming," Pitino told WAVE-3's Gary Fogle. "So I feel comfortable with everybody. I'm not sure about Clarence Holloway or not, but Amir could be coming."
Fogle then asked Pitino about Holloway, saying the player told reporters at the Derby Classic that he was going to pass his test and come to school.
"Well, I think there is reporter talk and then there's the truth," Pitino said with a smile about Holloway's status.
Johnson, a 6-10 post player from Los Angeles, Calif. and the Cardinals' highest-ranked recruit at No. 18 in the nation, signed with Louisville last November, but has had NBA scouts at many of his high school games. A lack of contact throughout the month of March prompted Pitino to remark "Well, I haven't heard too much from Amir Johnson. So, I don't know about that one," Pitino said.
"All the other guys are calling me constantly and I don't hear too much from him."
Johnson earned California's Mr. Basketball after leading his team to the State Championship and a top 5 national ranking. If he makes it to campus, Johnson could be the Cardinals' first McDonald's All-American signed and enrolled since . Louisville center David Padgett was a McDonald's All-American as well, but he originally enrolled at Kansas before transferring to Louisville before last season.
For both Johnson and Holloway, collegiate eligibility is now their biggest concern. Another factor effecting the big men's decisions is the potential for a 20-year rule expected to be implimented by the NBA player's association after their next meeting in early summer.
"We're still going to be Louisville with or without him," Pitino said of Johnson and Holloway in early April. "A top 20 basketball team. We'll never slip from that ever again. We still have great talent coming back. So, it would make it even better, as I'm sure Sebastian and Donte would have the year before, but it's not going to change where we are right now. We still have enough coming back to be a top 20 basketball team."