LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Three outstanding high school products have each signed a national letter-of-intent to continue their basketball playing careers at the University of Louisville, ranking this Cardinal group among the nation’s top recruiting classes.
The list of impressive signees includes Darius Perry, a 6-2, 170-pound guard from Powder Springs, Ga. and Wheeler High School in Marietta, Ga.; Lance Thomas, a 6-8, 210-pound forward from Norcross (Ga.) High School; and Malik Williams, a 6-11, 215-pound forward/center from Snider High School in Ft. Wayne, Ind.
Louisville’s class is ranked among the nation’s top five and all three individuals are ranked highly among the nation’s prospects.
“We’re extremely pleased with this group of young men,” said UofL head coach Rick Pitino. “What we really wanted in this recruiting class are long, triple-threat guys — players that can shoot, pass and beat people off the bounce. In addition, all are extremely intelligent basketball people and are articulate young men.”
Perry averaged 15.0 points, 4.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 3.1 steals as a junior last season as Wheeler posted a 22-6 record before falling in the first round of the Georgia state playoffs.
Honored as a first-team all-region pick as a junior, Perry is ranked No. 53 nationally in the ESPN 100, 63rd by 247Sports.com, 76th by Scout.com and 82nd by Rivals.com.
“From the first time I saw him, I knew Darius was made for Louisville,” said Pitino. “He can shoot, is defensive minded and can get up on you and press you for 94 feet — and is a combo guard that can play both backcourt positions. He is someone that understands and loves the game. His toughness and shooting ability was something we wanted on our team. We’re super excited to have him with us.”
As a sophomore in 2014-15, Perry helped Wheeler win the Class AAAAAA state championship with a 30-3 record. He averaged 11.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists for his Game Elite AAU squad last summer, playing for his father and coach Eric Perry. Perry had the opportunity to play for the U.S. Select team at an Adidas Eurocamp last summer.
Wheeler High School has produced multiple NBA players such as Sharef Abdur-Rahim, Jermareo Davidson, JJ Hickson and Dequan Jones.
Perry had multiple collegiate choices, including such schools as Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Wake Forest before signing with the Cardinals.
Thomas averaged 8.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.7 blocked shots as a junior last season in helping his Norcross High School team to a 26-4 record and the Georgia Class AAAAAA Sweet 16 before falling to eventual state champion Westlake. Norcross won 13 straight at one point and 20 of 21 games before the playoffs.
A first-team All-Region 7 selection last year, Thomas is ranked No. 76 nationally by 247Sports.com and No. 121 by Scout.com, which lists him as the 16th-best power forward in the nation.
“Lance has as much potential as any player that I have recruited,” said Pitino. “He’s long, shoots and passes well, and understands the game. He’s extremely raw with unlimited potential. He is someone that is going to improve immensely during his senior year, as well as going forward. He has a great upside with the ability to block shots, shoot the ball and run the floor. We are thrilled to have him as a Cardinal.”
As a sophomore in 2014-15, Thomas helped Norcross achieve a 27-4 record, a Region 8 championship and the Class AAAAAA Georgia state quarterfinals. He averaged 9.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and shot 48.7 percent from the field for his Team United AAU team last summer. He competed in the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 High School Basketball Camp last summer.
Thomas had narrowed his collegiate choices to Florida, USC and Miami (Fla.) before signing with the Cardinals.
Williams averaged 21.2 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.9 blocked shots and connected on 36 percent of his three-point attempts as a junior last season in helping his Snider High School team produce a 14-9 record.
A first-team All-Summit Athletic Conference selection as a junior, Williams is ranked No. 21 nationally by Scout.com, No. 29 by Rivals.com, No. 30 by 247Sports.com and is No. 41 the ESPN 100.
“Malik has unique abilities at his size,” said Pitino. “He has a lot of Kevin Durant in him, in terms of being able to step out with great range to make shots, put it on the floor, rebound, block shots and he’s extremely long at 6-11. He does it all. Throughout our opportunities to see him, if he sneezed, I was there to say ‘God bless you.’ That’s how much we wanted him.”
With his senior season remaining, Williams is already Snider’s career rebounding leader and holds the school single-season record for blocked shots. As an all-area team pick, he helped Snider to an 18-5 record his sophomore year while averaging 13.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots. Snider finished with a 14-8 mark in Williams’ freshman season.
The Cardinals’ first verbal commitment of this class, Williams scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds, connecting on 5-of-7 three-point goals, as his Indiana Junior All-Stars team beat the seniors in a game last summer.
In the semifinals of the 2016 AAU Super Showcase, Williams totaled 31 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocked shots for his Legit team, and followed with 24 points and 12 rebounds in the championship. He participated in the National Basketball Players Association Top 100 High School Basketball Camp last summer.
Williams had also considered Indiana, Purdue, Georgetown, Iowa, Michigan State, UCLA and others before signing with the Cardinals.