When nationally-ranked shooting guard prospect Frankie Hughes announced his commitment to Louisville at his Garfield Heights High School, the thought had to race in everyone’s mind: Was it because of the parties?
Had Hughes been to one of Louisville’s famed sex parties? Was he joining the Cardinals because of the Empire-esque life he saw depicted off the court, or the ability to play for legendary coach Rick Pitino on it?
“I just told (coach Rick Pitino) that I had his back with everything that’s going on,” Hughes told Gannett partner The Louisville Courier-Journal. “I committed to Louisville because of Coach Pitino and I supported the program. I don’t think anybody can speculate on what’s going to happen (with the investigations).”
In the moment, Louisville fans could probably care less about the answer to those questions. The fact remains that Pitino’s Cardinals badly needed an injection of positive news, and Hughes provided just that when he made his collegiate decision Tuesday. He chose the Cardinals ahead of scholarship offers from a host of the nation’s top programs.
That’s more than anyone can say for SMU. The Mustangs have yet to turn the corner from a debilitating suspension levied against the basketball program related to academic malfeasance under coach Larry Brown’s watch. Now Brown has to sell recruits on his ability to appeal or build the program for the long haul, no easy matter for young athletes often focused on getting in, making an impact and heading off to the NBA in as short a course as possible.
As for Hughes, he will head to Louisville as part of another strong class cobbled together by Pitino and his recruiting assistants, assuming that all sign on the dotted line before next summer. Of course, that assumes that Pitino and his staff will still be at the helm in Louisville, no sure thing given the ever-increasing pressure surrounding the group after the sex scandal.
Either way, Hughes is headed to Louisville, and for a change that’s good news for Cardinals fans. That he had the confidence and boldness to do so in the midst of a potential program-changing scandal is worthy of either applause or serious head-shaking … or perhaps both.