(Photo of Louisville Players: Sam Upshaw Jr. - Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Even in the month of July, 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, newcomers donning the red & black for the first time, the Cardinals look radically different from this time last year.
Departures and Arrivals
At this point, it's well documented the amount of talent that Louisville is losing from their 2020-21 squad. Starting guards Carlik Jones and David Johnson declared for the 2021 NBA Draft; guard Josh Nickelberry, forward Quinn Slazinski and forward Aidan Igiehon entered the transfer portal; and guard Charles Minlend elected not to return for an extra year.
Countering the amount of departing players, the Cardinals are welcoming seven newcomers to the fold. Forward Matt Cross, guards Jarrod West and Noah Locke, high school prospects center Roosevelt Wheeler and guard/forward Mike James, and JUCO guard El Ellis have all made it to campus in the last month.
But there was also a surprise announcement. On Thursday, Louisville announced that the seventh newcomer, JUCO power forward Sydney Curry, had officially signed with the program. He is expected to arrive on campus this upcoming weekend.
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 still a bit of a toss-up as to who will be the starting point guard for Louisville. 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, It's likely that West gets the starting nod due to his experience. Ellis can play the two guard, but he has stated that he wants to play point.
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's depth starts to take an uptick when looking 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, as well as all four guards, will be able to give Louisville some much needed three-point shooting, as he shot 40.0% in his freshman year at Miami. Mike James will be a versatile piece both on the wing, and occasionally as a two guard.
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. The explosiveness from the recently added Sydney Curry will give Louisville some much needed physicality down low, and he can occasionally play the five. JJ Traynor is one of the more underrated players on the roster, as night in and night out last season, he posted impressive plus/minuses on the box score.
At the five spot, there are still some lingering questions, although the addition of Curry does provide Louisville with a great contingency plan. Malik Williams' invaluable defensive presence in the paint was sorely missed in 2020-21, but one can't help but wonder if he can stay healthy after a pair of feet injuries. One can say the same about Roosevelt Wheeler after sustaining an Achilles injury in high school, although rehab seems to be coming along smoothly. Gabe Wiznitzer was decent at times, but he will need to continue having a good offseason in order to take the next step.
You can follow Louisville Report for future coverage by liking us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram:
You can also follow Deputy Editor Matthew McGavic at @GeneralWasp on Twitter