By Brad McGuffin —
The current roster for men’s basketball contains a raw mix of underclassmen, juniors and experienced graduate transfers. Along with the promise of skill from the upcoming 2019 class, this season’s sophomores provide young talent and paint a bright future for the program.
Comprising nearly 40 percent of the roster, here’s a preview of U of L’s second-year’s and what they bring to the squad.
Following a successful summer playing with the Nigerian national team, Nwora returned to campus bulked up and ready for a breakout opportunity.
“Jordan is a talent, but he has never valued the details,” head coach Chris Mack said. “He could get away with that in AAU action. But to be a great player in college basketball, you have to value the details.”
The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 5.7 points per game in 2017-18 and played a key role coming off the bench. This season, he will need to up his numbers if Louisville is to reach maximum potential.
In the Cards’ season opener, Nwora did just that and posted 12 points, six rebounds and two steals. The sophomore still needs to improve his consistency and handling of the ball, but U of L fans should expect great things from Nwora whether he starts or comes off the bench.
“The style we’re going to play this year is a big change,” Nwora said. “But I think we’re going to be really good because of how Mack likes to play basketball.”
Williams is arguably the most important player who will come off the bench. On a shorter team, the power forward is the tallest player at 6-foot-11.
In his freshman year, Williams became known for versatility with ability to shoot the outside shot. This year, Mack will need him to play bigger and more physical if Louisville is to make the NCAA tournament.
“We’re going to need him to be better than he was as a freshman,” Mack said. “He’s got the ability to stretch the defense, but he has to be able to affect things at the rim on both ends of the floor.”
If junior starting center Steven Enoch gets in foul trouble, Mack will look to Williams to step up his game.
“I’m looking forward to going out and giving it my all every night,” Williams said. “I’ve improved my post-up game and my IQ, so there’s a lot of things I want to show the fans this year.”
Perry is the guard you can count on to bring intensity on defense every time he steps on the court. He wasn’t known for socring last season, but Perry’s offensive output will increase in the coming year.
The sophomore shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the field against Nicholls in the season opener for 14 points (second most on the team). Perry also shot perfectly from the three-point line.
“Darius is very hard on himself. He puts a lot of time into the game, away from practice, away from the coaches,” Mack said. “He’s one of our most talented players for sure.”
As starting guard alongside graduate student Christen Cunningham, expect Perry to bring both the speed and the flair to the court for U of L.
“I’ve always said ‘there’s no part of your game that’s perfect,’ you have to work on all of it,” Perry said. “A lot of times I move too fast. I didn’t have the pace I needed, so that’s a big emphasis for me this year.”
Griffin is a walk-on who appeared in seven games last year.
As one of the four Kentucky natives on the team, he averaged 21.4 points per game as a senior at South Oldham high school and became a finalist for Kentucky Mr. Basketball.
The sophomore guard may not see much playing time this season, but he remains vital to the team for what he does on the practice court day-in and day-out.
Redding is another walk-on who appeared in three games last year.
The Fort Wayne, Indiana native notched 1,099 career points at Carroll High School and became known for his ability to shoot the three-point shot.
Like Griffin, Redding is a talented walk-on who does his part behind the scenes on the practice court. With a limited amount of scholarships and a history with walk-ons, Mack recognizes the value of players like Griffin and Redding.
“They’re both really good players,” Mack said. “They could play at other places, but they wanted to be a part of our program. They’re here early, they sacrifice the same things our scholarship guys do and they’ve been terrific in their effort.”
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Photo by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal