LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It may be just the first week of April, but it’s never too early to take a look into the future and see how the 2022-23 list for Louisville’s men’s basketball program could shake out.
Between players moving on to the next step in their respective careers, recruits taking on the reds and blacks for the first time, and players going in and out of the transfer portal, very little is carved in stone when it comes to, what team 109 will look like when they tie them up for the first time.
Departures and arrivals
To say that Louisville’s list has been changing over the last week and a half is an understatement.
Gabe Wiznitzer was the first player to put his name on the transfer portal, and did so not long after the season ended and the locks have since opened. Samuell Williamson, Matt Cross, Noah Locke and Dre Davis have all been following Wiznitzer for the past week and a half.
Louisville has also seen an exodus of players out on the recruiting front as class of 2022 signatories Tae Davis and Frederick King both requested releases from their respective National Letter’s of Intent. Verbal commitment Kamari Lands has indicated he wants to remain a cardinal but has not yet officially signed an NLI.
This is on top of the three players that Louisville is already losing to the exam: Malik Williams, Mason Faulkner and Jarrod West. In total, eight players from last year’s squad go on to other bets.
That said, Louisville has received some great news. Over the past week, the Cardinals have received promises from three current players that they will actually return for next season: Sydney Curry, El Ellis and Mike James.
Louisville is still waiting for decisions from Jae’Lyn Withers, JJ Traynor and Roosevelt Wheeler, and they should come sooner rather than later. With Kenny Payne hitting the recruiting track hard, and already heavily in the mix with a few high school prospects and D1 transfer, he wants clarity on a person’s status as soon as possible.
Projected depth diagram
Given all that we now know about the current state of Louisville’s list, below is an early look at what the depth chart might look like next year:
El Ellis *
Sydney Curry *
Mike James *
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* Confirmed to return
El Ellis’ return to Louisville is a massive victory for Payne. While his campaign for 2021-22 certainly had its ups and downs, the JUCO transfer showed enormous potential on several occasions. He finished as Louisville’s third leading goal scorer, and also their best three-point shooter from a percentage point of view. But given that there are no other primarily ball dealers on the list at the moment, Louisville will have to hit this position big among the remaining ’22 prospects and the transfer portal.
Louisville will also need to take a strong look at the prospects for the firefighter. With Noah Locke entering the portal, there are no remaining shooting / scoring guards, and Ellis is now the only true guard on the list. Mike James can slip over and play the two if need be, but he comes out of an Achilles injury.
Up on the wing, there is no longer a thread at this position where the Williamson, Cross and Davis brothers both choose to either transfer or deactivate. Lands are a solid starting point for Louisville, and James has some potential if it is healthy, but they will definitely have to add – at a minimum – at least one small forward more to the list for the sake of depth and flexibility.
The power forward position will be interesting to monitor for Louisville. Withers struggled largely last season, but was able to return over the past month and look like the pseudo-NBA perspective many expected him to be. JJ Traynor was an absentee for almost the entire year thanks to setbacks last offseason, but working with Payne, known as a big man whisperer, should be good for him if he decides to stay.
Oddly enough, the greatest potential on the entire list right now is at the center. Sydney Curry looked cross-border unstoppable in attack over the last month of the season but will have to work drastically on his defense. Roosevelt Wheeler also had glimpses of potential, but got lost in the big man-shuffle behind Curry, Withers and Williams. Louisville will have to add another big one, but with Payne’s reputation as an excellent post game developer, there’s a lot to be excited about in the paint.
(Photo by El Ellis: Jamie Rhodes – USA TODAY Sports)
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