Louisville’s 2020-2021 men’s basketball season tips off this week, and there are no shortage of fresh faces on the new squad. The Cards added three scholarship freshman as well as four walk-ons. Per usual, Coach Mack dipped into the graduate transfer market and picked up two highly coveted seniors. Today, we look at the new additions and what roles they will play this upcoming season.
Carlik Jones committed to the Cards over a long list of high-major programs. He averaged 20.0 points, 5.5 assists, and 5.1 rebounds at Radford last season, the only player in Division 1 to average 20-5-5. Louisville was in need of a high level scorer this offseason and it got just that in Jones. The 6-1 guard has always impressed with the ball in his hands, but he made a huge leap shooting last season. After connecting on less than 30 percent of his three-point attempts in his first two season at Radford, Jones shot 40.4-percent from long range a year ago on 109 attempts for the season. He should slot in nicely as a compliment to David Johnson in the backcourt and form one of the best duos in the ACC. Jones was voted a team captain and should be a guaranteed starter from day one.
Minlend comes to the Ville by way of San Francisco. Like Jones, he chose Louisville over a slew of power conference programs. The 6-4 guard led the Dons in scoring last season, posting averages of 14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assist per game. Minlend led USF to its highest win total in 35 years and earned Second Team All-WCC honors each of the past two years. He figures to be a major contributor to this team, whether off the bench or in the lineup, but he has been sidelined for 6 weeks after suffering a sprained knee. The Cards will undeniably miss him early on in the season, but he will be an important piece for the team if he can get healthy by conference play.
A top-100 recruit in the class of 2020, Davis is a versatile wing from Indiana who figures to play a role on this Louisville team early on. The opportunity was already there for a freshman to step in and contribute, but it is even more likely given the recent injuries. Coach Mack has spoken highly of Davis recently and he probably has the most breakout potential out of all the freshman.
Like Davis, JJ Traynor will have an opportunity to earn minutes early. The absence of Malik Williams has left a big hole in the frontcourt and it could be a group effort to make up for what was lost. Jaelyn Withers or Aidan Igiehon are likely candidates to step in and contribute, but Traynor should see playing time off the bench. The 6-8 forward rose in the class of 2020 rankings during his senior season at Bardstown High School and sat comfortably in multiple top-100s before enrolling at UofL. He is a long prospect that has always had potential and could end up being a steal for the Cards in the long run. If I had to guess, JJ Traynor will end up playing much more in his freshman season than anyone would have predicted when he committed last year.
Gabe Wiznitzer was originally planned to redshirt this season after reclassifying this summer, but the 6-11 Center from Hargrave Military Academy will likely be forced into a role due to injuries and lack of depth. Wiznitzer is an intriguing prospect given his ability to stretch the floor and provide a real threat from three-point range. With Malik Williams sidelined, those could be some valuable attributes that translate to more playing time in non-conference play. Like most of these guys, we will not know for sure just how capable Gabe Witznitzer will be until we actually see him on the floor. He’ll likely be thrown in earlier than Coach Mack had planned and could take some understandable lumps early on. If I had to guess, Wiznitzer and Traynor will probably be fighting for the same minutes. The opportunity is going to be there.
Sam Bearden joins the Cards as a walk-on from Holy Cross High School in Louisville. Bearden was an All-Region selection as a senior and finished as the second-leading all-time scorer for the Cougars.
Brad Colbert joins the Cards as a walk-on from the International Sports Academy at Andrews Osborne in Ohio. Prior to playing his senior season at ISA, Colbert won an Ohio state championship during his junior season at Cincinnati Moeller.
Schultz comes from Rockwall High School in Texas where he was teammates with sophomore Samuell Williamson for two seasons.
Myles-Devore averaged double figures for Woodford County High School in Versailles last season and was selected to the all-district tournament team. His father, Ellis, played four seasons for Louisville and most notably started every game during the 2004-05 season that ended in a trip to the Final Four.
Last season was a relatively disappointing one for the freshman class considering the expectations coming into the year. Only two freshman saw regular playing time and we did not get an extended look at anyone else. That had a lot to do with injuries and a limited rotation. Coach Mack stuck to a strict 9-man lineup and there simply was not many opportunities for the class of 2019 to earn minutes. This year, things are a bit different. The class of 2020 does not have the same pedigree that the previous class had entering Louisville, but there is plenty to like about this group. There is playing time out there to be earned and you have to think a couple guys are going to get their chance to contribute early. Only time will tell who steps up and take advantage of the opportunity.