With National Signing day just a little over a month away, new Louisville basketball Head Coach Chris Mack and his staff have their work cut out for them.
Recruiting is one of the most important parts of a coaches job, and with zero recruits in the fold for the 2018-19 season, it looks like we’ll find out quickly what Chris Mack, Mike Pegues, and Luke Murray can do as recruiters.
Louisville at one point had a top 5 recruiting class with commitments from Anfernee Simons, who was a top 10 recruit but is now on his way to the NBA Draft, and top 50 guard Courtney Ramey. But after an FBI Investigation named Louisville, a school already on probation from previous scandals, leading to the firing of then head coach Rick Pitino, both recruits quickly decommitted and others who considered the Cards eliminated them from their list.
The coaching staff (or what we know so far) has only been in place “officially” for a few days now, so figuring out who they may or may not pursue is beyond difficult. The coaches have quickly turned their eye to the 2019 class, offering over a dozen scholarships in less than 24 hours. But with two scholarships and the potential for others to come available (with others still up in the air on their future), there are spots that will need to be filled to complete the 2018 roster.
Here are some names the staff at The Cardinal Connect are watching, and that you should potentially keep an eye on.
These are speculative at this point, as only a few have links to Xavier (by way of commitments or scholarships offered). But with plenty of talent still available in the 2018 recruiting class, and player-after-player opting to graduate and become a graduate transfer, the talent pool is abounding with players who could play a role for Louisville.
Several players in the class of 2018 have waited until national signing day to make their school choice. Whether that’s because they’ve decommitted from their first choice after a coach has left or to wait and see where other players go, or what players leave their school via transfer or to the NBA Draft, there is still time for the coaches to get in and recruit.
Here’s a great breakdown from Jeff Greer of the Courier Journal of Louisville’s scholarship outlook.
Huntington, WV (Huntington Prep)
Austin, TX (Westlake)
Alexandria, KY (Covington Catholic)
When coaches who recruited a player, eventually securing a commitment, leave their respective programs for other jobs, typically those recruits will back off of their commitment and reopen their recruitment, or in the case of players who have signed letters of intent, ask for their release.
Will that be the case for James, Kennedy and Walter? At this point no one knows.
I won’t sit here and act like I know a lot about any of these recruits. However, what I do know is all three are three star recruits, who have been recruited by power six programs.
I would personally like to see Coach Chris Mack pursue big man Jake Walter. With the loss of Anas Mahmoud to graduation, and the potential to lose Ray Spalding to the NBA, Louisville will need some depth inside. Walter, who led Covington Catholic to the 2018 Kentucky State Championship, the 7’0, 260 pound big man reminds me a lot of former Xavier big man Matt Stainbrook (just a lot taller). Walter is not ready just yet to excel at the ACC level, but with the size and skill he possesses, he could one day be a nice piece for the Cards.
The most likely player to end up at Louisville out of the three Xavier signees is Keonte Kennedy. While he’s listed as a “shooting guard” by rivals, most recruiting pundits believed he would ultimately end up playing point guard at the next level for Chris Mack. Louisville will need some more guard depth, and with Kennedy being able to play both positions, he’d be a great fit. Mack loves bigger, longer guards, and Kennedy fits that description at 6’4. Kennedy chose Xavier over the likes of Michigan, Memphis, Arkansas, Georgia tech, Texas tech, and Virginia Tech.
2.5 ppg, 1 rpg, 1 apg
If you’re looking for a player who Chris Mack may pursue due to familiarity, Larry Austin Jr. is your guy.
While no one will be impressed with his season averages in his two years at Vanderbilt, what Austin could provide to Louisville is invaluable. Having played for Xavier as a freshman before transferring to Vanderbilt, Austin would know Chris Mack’s system from day one, and would be able to provide leadership and depth at the guard position as a experienced senior.
While neither Quentin Snider, nor Anas Mahmoud were great leaders last season (vocal, at least), this new team will still miss having senior leaders at the helm. Austin Jr. would be able to provide valuable experience, already knowing how Mack operates.
Austin is by no means a game changing talent, but with Darius Perry and Ryan McMahon coming back at the point guard spot, both being talented but a bit out of control at times, having a senior leader like Austin Jr. could be good for the team.
21.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg
When it comes to high scoring mid-major prospects looking to take their skills to the next level, Ryan Taylor from Evansville is at the top of the list.
Taylor is a bucket-getter, who played his first three seasons at Evansville before opting to graduate and transfer after Marty Simmons was let go. Taylor led the Purple Aces in scoring, averaging 21.3 points per game, shooting 43% from the field and 42% from deep.
His averages are a tad bit inflated simply because of the fact that his team wasn’t very good, and he was forced to take a lot of shots. On a bigger team, with a lesser role, I think Taylor could excel. At 6’6, playing both guard positions, Taylor is the kind of guard that Mack and staff value.
Indiana, Arizona, USC, Oklahoma, and Texas have all reached out Taylor since he announced his intentions to transfer.
13.5 ppg, 6.6 apg
Justin Coleman is another name who plenty of big time programs are courting as a potential graduate transfer.
Coleman started his career at Alabama, before electing to transfer for a larger role. The 5’10 guard is considered to be “traditional” point guard, playing with a pass-first mentality which can be seen in his 6.6 assist per game average. Coleman earned All-SoCon honors, by being named to the SoCon all second team.
Coleman could be an option as the backup point guard for Chris Mack, instead of bringing in another freshman to play behind sophomore Darius Perry.
4.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg
Wiley was once considered to be an up and coming/breakout type of player for the Maryland Terrapins, before injuries hampered his career. The former four star recruit (52nd ranked player in the country according to ESPN), averaged just 4 points per game last season in a reserve role.
Wiley could excel with a fresh start and a different role, and with Chris Mack having success in recruiting the Maryland area, he could be a target for the Cards.
Just like some of the other players mentioned, Wiley would likely play a back-up, leadership role for the Cards.
Other graduate transfers to watch:
- Michael Finke (Center – Illinois)
- Tre Campbell (Guard – Georgetown)
- Ellis Dozier (Forward – Ohio)
- Tariq Owens (Forward – St. John’s)
- Jalyn Patterson (Guard – LSU)
- Ryan Luther (Forward – Pittsburgh)
- Christen Cunningham (Guard – Samford)
Transfers (must sit out 1 year)
North Carolina (three years of eligibility remaining)
2.9 ppg, 1.6 apg
It’s not to often that a former five star prospect is on the transfer market, but that seems to be the case this spring with Jalek Felton.
The nephew of former Tar Heel great Ray Felton, was a longtime commit to UNC, and eventually enrolled. However, midway through his freshman season Felton was suspended by Roy Williams, and would not play again. Felton announced he would be leaving the University earlier this month.
While what happened exactly is unknown, landing Jalek Felton would be a huge splash for Chris Mack. Felton is a big-time talent, who sat behind Joel Berry II, Theo Pinson, and Kenny Williams this past season, and didn’t get much of a chance to show his abilities.
If everything clears up, I could see Mack pursuing Felton.
Other potential transfers to watch:
- Mark Smith (Guard – Illinois / Freshman)
- David Nickelberry (Wing – Memphis / Freshman)
- James Banks (Center – Texas / Sophomore)
- Kameron McGusty (Guard – Oklahoma / Sophomore)
- Matthew Moyer (Forward – Syracuse / Sophomore)
- D’Angelo Hunter (Forward – West Virginia / Junior) *PRP graduate*
2018 Uncommitted Recruits
5-star (class of 2019)
Why would I list Hagans as a potential 2018 target for the Cards? Well the 5 star, 6th ranked player in the class of 2019 has hinted at potentially reclassifying and joining the 2018 class after recently decommitting from Georgia.
Chris Mack reportedly offered Hagans, and a slew of other class of 2019 prospects, just hours after it was reported by Jeff Goodman of ESPN that he would be the new coach at Louisville. Hagans is a dynamic talent, who could be an impact player on day one for the Cards.
There’s really no idea how much consideration Hagans is going to give the Cards, or if he would even want to play in 2018. However, if you can grab a talent who has offers from literally every major school in the country, and have him for next season, it’s absolutely something you have to do.
If Hagans’ elects to stay in the 2019 class, expect Mack and staff to make him a priority.
Webster Groves, MO
Ramey was at one time a Louisville commit, who backed off his pledge after the dismissal of Rick Pitino, so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities for Chris Mack to jump back into recruiting the Webster Groves guard.
It’s likely too late to get in and sway Ramey to come back to the Cards, however David Padgett and staff did a great job of staying in touch with Ramey and his father throughout the season.
Ramey is a top 50 recruit in the class of 2018 who is currently considering Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma State, amongst others.
Sharpsburg, MD (St. James)
Bryce Golden was committed to Pittsburgh and Kevin Stallings before decommitting after Stallings was let go. The reason he could be a potential Louisville target, is the fact that he was being recruited by Xavier (recently offered him a scholarship) and assistant coach Mike Pegues according to 247 sports.
Golden is a 3-star, 6’9 big man who is capable of playing inside and outside, and could be available addition to the Louisville recruiting class.
If Louisville doesn’t add another big man graduate transfer, Golden may become a priority for the staff.
New Albany, IN
Romeo’s name is here because at one point it seemed as though he was a Louisville lean, and he’s technically still “uncommitted”. The former is no longer the case as Langford is down to Kansas, Indiana, and Vanderbilt.
It was widely believed that Langford would reconsider the Cards, and may even be waiting to make a decision on his college choice, until after Louisville named a coach. That is not the case.
Romeo Langford said twice during his time at the McDonald’s All-American game that he would not reconsider the Cards, regardless of the who they hire, and he was focused on his final three.
These next few weeks and months will be an exciting time for Cardinal fans, who have been deprived of recruiting news during the season with interim head coach David Padgett.
Jacob Lane joined The Cardinal Connect in August of 2017 after previously writing for CardinalSports.com on the Rivals Network. Jacob covers anything and everything Louisville Cardinals. Follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Lane08