For Louisville, adding Tony Woods is high risk but high reward

Jeff Eisenberg
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It's no surprise that Tony Woods' recent domestic battery conviction didn't prevent him from landing a second chance to play Division I ball, but it's certainly eye-opening which coach apparently will offer the ex-Wake Forest center that opportunity.

That man is none other than Louisville's Rick Pitino, who must weigh his program's need for a gifted 6-foot-11 big man against the character risk of adding a player who allegedly kicked and pushed his girlfriend hard enough to fracture her spine.

Multiple reports indicate that Woods told the Louisville staff he intends to join the Cardinals on a visit to campus this past weekend. Woods cannot enroll at Louisville until January and will not be eligible to play for Louisville until mid-December 2011.

"He had an excellent visit," Georgia Stars coach Norman Parker told Scout.com. "Coach Pitino is doing an investigation and making sure what needs to be done and they have encouraged him to make sure he takes care of all his obligations from his (plea agreement). I know (Pitino) has talked to all the people involved, including Wake Forest."

Before everyone condemns Louisville for its leniency toward Woods, just know that Pitino was certainly not alone in his interest. Woods' former AAU coach told FoxSports.com last week that 30 teams had called to inquire about the former five-star prospect, including the likes of Kentucky, Georgetown, West Virginia and Auburn.

The interest is partially a result of the lack of uncommitted elite big men in the class of 2011 and partially a result of Woods' untapped talent. Though he averaged only 4.6 points and 3.2 rebounds off the bench as a sophomore at Wake Forest, coaches recall that he was once one of the Class of 2008's most decorated prospects.

Still, even if Woods does have elite potential, Louisville's hasty decision to offer him a scholarship nonetheless smacks of desperation. Why take the potential PR hit of adding a guy with such a checkered past when he won't be eligible to even help you on the court for another 14 months?

A program of Louisville's stature typically would leave such a risk to the Auburns, South Floridas and UTEPs of the world. Apparently, a Louisville team that's shy on talent right now and in the midst of a hit-and-miss recruiting period is willing to take that gamble.