Kenny Payne Lands Second Highest Recruit In UofL’s History

(Photo courtesy of Fox 9 KMSP)


Kenny Payne has hit large (literally) in landing his first ever top 20 recruit as head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. Ranked 11th in Rivals 2023 recruiting rankings and 18th in 24/7Sports (#2 Center), Dennis Evans is arguably the top rim protector in the upcoming class. He comes in listed at 7’1, 210 pounds and becomes Louisville’s first true 7 footer since Anas Mahmoud in the 2017-18 season. Amazingly though, compared to Mahmoud’s 9’1 standing reach, Evans comes in with a near 9’8!

The Riverside, California big man asked out of his National Letter of Intent from Minnesota on February 24, which led to his eventual commitment to UofL on March 12. He is Hillcrests’ all time leader in blocks (563) and triple doubles (7), along with second in both points (1,083) and rebounds (794). In 2022, he helped lead the USA Men’s U17 World Cup team to a gold medal along side two other top future Cardinal prospects in “Boogie” Fland (#13 in 2024 class) and Karter Knox (#15 in 2024 class).

Evans’ strong suits are ones that the Cardinals lacked heavily throughout this past season. The southpaw has impeccable timing on when to jump for a block and uses his length to his advantage, rarely gambling on pump fakes. His presence alone can affect how offenses choose to play against Louisville because of the amount of range he can cover while defending. There are only four players in the NBA today who have a longer wingspan than Dennis’ near 7’7.

Dennis Evans (Highlights) Class of 2023 21 Points 11 Rebounds and 7 Blocks

On offense he still seems a bit raw and doesn’t have much of an off-hand game, but shouldn’t by any means be an offensive liability. He’s got a knack for grabbing second chance opportunities and has exceptional footwork for his size. The combination of his wide body and footwork could be a real problem for defending teams guarding the high pick & roll. He has shown the potential of his jump shot too, as in his senior season he shot 33% from three on 27 attempts. It will be interesting to see how Kenny Payne and Danny Manning develop him given their successful track record with big men prior.

Dennis Evans becomes a monumental landing for Coach Kenny Payne and joins Kaleb Glenn (#71 in 24/7Sports), Curtis Williams Jr. (#104 in 24/7Sports) and standout JUCO guard Koron Davis in Louisville’s upcoming 2023 recruiting class. Disregarding Sebastian Telfair who committed to the program in 2004 but later chose the NBA route instead, Evans becomes the 2nd highest ranked recruit to ever commit to the Cardinals (Samardo Samuels #4 in 2008). This builds up a tremendous amount of steam for the Cardinals heading into next season with the commitment coming one day before the official opening of the transfer portal. We saw a “snowball effect” of sorts in 2018 when Josh Nickelberry became the first high school commit in the Chris Mack era. As this coaching staff gets their first full recruiting period underway with the 2024 class and the NCAA cloud has finally gone away, this begs the question… is this just the beginning of what Kenny Payne has in store?

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