(Photo of Chris Mack: Sam Upshaw Jr. - Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - We might be deep into the month of April, but the 2021-22 roster for the Louisville men's basketball program continues to take shape.
Between players moving on to the next step in their respective careers, recruits donning the red & black for the first time, as well as potential transfer targets between now and opening tip-off, Team 108 is far from set in stone.
Departures and Arrivals
Over the last week, two of the most anticipated offseason moves for the Cardinals came to pass. Graduate transfer guard Carlik Jones entered his name into the NBA Draft process while leaving open a return for next season, and sophomore guard David Johnson also declared for the 2021 NBA Draft - although foregoing his remaining collegiate eligibility.
To make up for potentially losing two starters, the Cardinals added yet another piece to their backcourt. Former Florida junior guard Noah Locke committed to Louisville this past Sunday, and officially signed to play for the Cards two days later.
So far, next year's roster will feature a total of six newcomers. Freshman forward Matt Cross officially signed with the Cardinals in mid March after parting ways with Miami in late January, as did Marshall graduate transfer guard Jarrod West in early April. Louisville is also welcoming three Class of 2021 signees: JUCO point guard El Ellis, as well as high school signees wing Michael James and center Roosevelt Wheeler.
Countering the influx of newcomers, several players are also departing besides Johnson and potentially Jones. Sophomore forward Aidan Igiehon and sophomore guard Josh Nickelberry transferred, and graduate transfer guard Charles Minlend confirmed he would not be returning. High school signees guard Bobby Pettiford and forward Eric Van Der Heijden were also granted a release from their National Letters of Intent.
Projected Depth Chart
Starting next season, Louisville's scholarship reduction will no longer apply, and they will be back to a 13-man scholarship roster. When not taking into account Malik Williams - who won't count against the limit, the Cardinals are still at 12 scholarship players, meaning they can welcome one transfer with their current roster.
Given all that we know now about the current state of Louisville's roster, below is an early look into what the depth chart next year could look like:
*Mobile users can scroll left & right on the table*
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
**Does not count against 13-man scholarship limit
It's a bit of a toss-up as to who will be the starting point guard for Louisville. Both Jarrod West and El Ellis both have distributed the ability to play on the ball, as well as shoot it from long distance. While Ellis has arguably the higher upside, I'll be giving the nod to West for now as he has more experience. Plus, Ellis can also play the two guard spot as well, and neither would start if Jones opts to come back.
Speaking of two guard, Noah Locke is absolutely the man to start here based solely off his ability to shoot the basketball. However, there has the potential to be some intriguing backcourt lineups, as Locke wants to get back to playing combo guard, and Ellis can already play both on and off the ball. If Mack wants to go with bigger lineups, Dre Davis is probably going to be the answer - but he still should see his fair share of playing time regardless, whether in the backcourt or on the wing, due to his potential.
Louisville starts to get more quality depth at small forward. Samuell Williamson was able to overcome a disappointing freshman year and inconsistent first half of his sophomore season to average 11.3 points and 11.0 rebounds in the final six games. Matt Cross will be able to give Louisville some much needed three-point shooting, as he shot 40.0% in his freshman year at Miami, and Michael James' motor will help the Cardinals with their struggles to maintain effort.
Power forward is another spot on the roster where there is solid depth. Jae'Lyn Withers' redshirt year allowed him to have a great year that landed him on the All-ACC Freshman Team, and played phenomenally when he was at his natural position. Both Quinn Slazinski and JJ Traynor played solid minutes when inserted, particularly Slazinski, whose effort was praised by Mack even started a few games when Williamson's effort was dipping.
At the five spot, we have a few questions, with the first one revolving around Malik Williams. While his return provides an invaluable defensive presence in the paint, one that was sorely missed in 2020-21, one can't help but wonder if he can stay healthy Gabe Wiznitzer was decent at times, but will need a good offseason in order to take the next step. With Roosevelt Wheeler, you just hope that his Achilles injury sustained in his senior year in high school won't have a negative impact in his collegiate career.
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