- Next up in our freshman intro series: Louisville five-star wing Samuell Williamson, who headlines a strong class for Chris Mack.
In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. In 2019, six of the top 10 NBA draft picks were one-and-done, and eight of the 14 lottery picks overall. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond. Just look at last year’s group of rookies we profiled: Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, Jalen Smith and Devon Dotson lead a whopping 12 former 2018 five-stars back for a sophomore season.
With all of that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball for 2019–20 and breaking down the impact those players could have. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. Next up is the No. 19 overall recruit, Louisville's Samuell Williamson. You can view all of the profiles to date here.
What He Means for Louisville’s Recruiting Class
Williamson headlines a loaded recruiting class in Louisville. The 6’7” small forward from Rockwall, Texas, and five other highly-touted freshman will help second-year coach Chris Mack continue his attempt to reestablish the Cardinals as a legitimate ACC contender. Four-stars center Aidan Igiehon (No. 53), combo guard David Johnson (No. 79), shooting guard Josh Nickelberry (No. 96) and power forward Jaelyn Withers (No. 122) and three-star forward Quinn Slazinski round out the talented 2019 class which is ranked No. 12 nationally. With Saint Joseph’s guard Lamarr Kimble, a graduate transfer, bringing experience to a new-look backcourt, the Cardinals boast a good balance of new and veteran talent. Their returners will show the unfaimilar faces the ropes and help Mack make what should be a deep postseason run.
How He Fits
Louisville brings back a solid portion of its rotation and production—76% of scoring and 80% of rebounding from last season—to be specific. Leading that statline is potential ACC player of the year Jordan Nwora, a junior, who will lockdown the Cards’ forwards at the four. Mack brings back two other starters, senior forward Dwayne Sutton and center Steven Enoch, to slot in alongside Nwora and anchor the frontcourt, as well as Malik Williams, who returns to share time at the five. Enoch and Williams give Louisville the size in they need in the paint and a strong board game to fall back on. With Williamson also slotting into the three alongside Sutton and Nwora, Mack has plenty of options in the paint.
Nwora and Sutton were go-to scorers for Louisville last season and doubled as two of the team’s best defensive rebounders. Williamson is an improving rebounder but he should be able to help on the scoring front right away. He can score on just about every level relatively consistently already. He has a good mid-range game and improving outside shot, which set him up well to contribute on the wing. He’s a capable ball-handler, although he’s not the best shot creator, and his passing game is solid. If he can continue to work on his three-point shot, Williamson will be an even more potent threat for the Cards. With the length and athleticism to also contribute defensively as long as he adds a few pounds to his slender 180-pound frame, Williamson could quickly prove to be a productive two-way presence. All in all, he brings a decent amount of potential to the three spot for 2019–20.
Freshman guard David Johnson will miss between four and six months after suffering a shoulder injury in summer practice, which shakes things up a bit for Louisville. The Cardinals have Kimble to provide an experienced option at the point. Ryan McMahon and Darius Perry should also see more minutes in Johnson’s absence and Nwora—hear me out—could slide back into more of a guard/forward slot and be utilized to bring the ball up some as well. He’s got the handles to help fill that void and has proven himself as a capable scorer with range. Nickelberry could also get some early minutes as relief at the two slot which would set Williamson up to play off the ball a bit more on the wing in a sliding two-three sort of role similar to what Mack could do with Nwora, giving the freshman more opportunities to play the perimieter and showcase his shooting ability than he otherwise might have seen had Johnson stayed healthy.
Importance to Louisville's Success/Team Outlook
Getting Nwora back was huge for the Cardinals, as was the return of Enoch. With their return also comes leaders for Williamson to learn from on a Louisville team that now looks like a legitimate ACC and national contender. The McDonald’s All-American brings added depth to the frontcourt and gives Mack more flexibility and more offensive firepower than he had last season. Kimble helps fix the facilitating problem and will make the most of Williamson’s upside. Whether or not he stays beyond his freshman season is still to be determined, but if Williamson gets going from the start, he may the spark Louisville needs to step into true title contention. He brings a good all-around game to a team with plenty of talented players.