By Josh Cook
Rick Pitino was surprised by Samardo Samuels' decision to enter the NBA Draft, but he is supporting the sophomore's decision to forgo his final two years at the University of Louisville.
On April 19 the UofL coach met with the media and spoke about the prospects of the 2010-11 season. That day Pitino said that he would suggest to Samuels, the 6-foot-9 forward who led the Cardinals in scoring and rebounding last season, that he turn pro after his junior year.
However Samuels had other ideas. The next day a press release from Samuels' native Jamaica said that he was entering the NBA Draft this year.
In a Wednesday press conference Pitino confirmed that Samuels will stay in next month's NBA Draft and forfeit his final two years of college at UofL.
Prior to that press release, though, Pitino said he "didn't even think (Samuels entering the draft) was even open for discussion."
However after that release, "I did get a phone call from Samardo's parents and talked to them in detail. At that point I started making plans that he was not coming back," Pitino said. "One thing I don't do in coaching is stand in the way of the wishes of parents, those are family decisions and we wish Samardo nothing but the best of luck. He's got a heck of a challenge in front of him."
Samuels averaged 15.3 points and seven rebounds per game, while shooting 52.4 percent, last season for the Cards to earn third team All-Big East Conference honors.
"In Samardo's case, look you've all got to understand, this is not a young man from the projects of New York City, or L.A. or Chicago. I've been there," Pitino said. "This is a young man who is doing it for his family to try and better his family. What we think is poor, you don't know poor. This is a young man, whether he's making a right or wrong decision is irrelevant, he's doing it for the right reasons. He's doing it for the reasons to help his family, and that's why I support his decision.
"He told me, 'My father sometimes drives a taxi and it's not like driving a taxi in New York, it's very dangerous in Jamaica.' (He) and my mother, they've sacrificed for me and if I've got to make a decision it will not be based on the fact that I don't want to come back it will be based on the decision that I want to help my family.' And I can't argue with that."
Samuels is projected as a second round pick, at best, in the June 24 draft. However some mock drafts, including this one at nbadraft.net, don't have him being drafted at all.
When asked if he thought Samuels would be drafted Pitino said: "I do.
"He's a small power forward, but he's going to try to change people's minds. He's going to try to go in the early second round, or go last first round."