By Spencer Laws
After fans endured one of the worst seasons in Louisville men’s basketball history, a big change was evident.
It couldn’t be the coach; even though first-year head coach Kenny Payne seemed to struggle in adjusting to the role, cutting him was not an option for athletic director Josh Heird.
With the new landscape of college basketball revolving around the Transfer Portal and NIL money, a turnaround for this program can come a lot quicker than you may think.
Six Portal Departures
It started quickly, with a total of six players hitting the portal, including both seniors — four-year player Jae’Lyn Withers and JUCO transfer Sydney Curry–, all 3 of the true freshman (Devin Ree, Kamari Lands, Fabio Basili), and sophomore Roosevelt Wheeler.
Withers, Curry, and Lands are among the most notable from the list. However, I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone considering the journey they endured this year.
Withers‘ career here at Louisville always seemed to be streaky. He would have moments, when he would show spots of being a reliable, consistent player, only to then have fans question why he was on the court.
Curry was a completely different story. Sydney had a phenomenal year last year coming out of the JUCO ranks, showing up in crucial moments under then-head coach Chris Mack. His overall performance this year was a complete letdown, averaging just 4.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in 17.3 minutes per game.
Lands was the only one that left people somewhat up in arms. Kamari showed great signs of development and improvement throughout the year. He became a big part of the team during the little success that was had late in the season.
Basili always saw his minutes fluctuate, coming as high as playing 17 minutes against Virginia to as little as one minute against Wake Forest. He never really saw a consistent amount of time throughout the entire season.
Wheeler never made the impact that everyone thought he would make, finishing the season with his highest point total being just five (5) against Maryland.
Lastly, Ree was just another Freshman that got lost in the fire that was Louisville basketball this year. He averages the lowest points per game on U of L’s roster, at just .9 a game per 4 minutes.
To add to these players leaving, senior El Ellis has decided to test out the NBA waters while keeping his college eligibility.
Ellis can accept his Covid year season if he would like to return for one more year.
Now moving to the other side of this process, these players are confirmed to be coming next year. According to 247sports.com, U of L currently has a promising #5 ranked 2023 class.
Former Kentucky commit and Illinois point guard Skyy Clark is (for right now) the lone player coming in from the transfer portal.
There have also been a couple of late additions in the ’23 class which will likely form an immediate impact on next season.
Hometown hero and former Louisville Male High School player Kaleb Glenn, a four-star small forward, leads the incoming class. Along with him comes Curtis Williams, another four-star small forward. Williams comes from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
The newest additions to this class include five-star small forward Trentyn Flowers out of Charlotte, North Carolina. Flowers will reclassify and enroll in classes for next fall.
Dennis Evans is another late addition to the class; the four-star seven-foot center out of Riverside, California is another huge get for Kenny Payne and staff. He is the No. 38 overall prospect in the 2023 class and flipped to U of L from Minnesota. Pa
The JUCO route provides again with Koron Davis, a shooting guard from Los Angeles out of the junior college ranks. The 6-foot-7 player lit it up this year averaging 25.7 points per game at Los Angeles Southwest Junior College. His ability to score will be a big benefit to the Cards on the offensive side of the ball.
Not quite a full house
With all the turnover and the players coming in, the roster is still not completely set for next year. Payne and company still can potentially go get 2-3 more players out of the portal depending on El Ellis.
Despite Ellis’s decision, the roster is still very thin on ball handlers. Payne should be keen on landing a name or two out of the portal to solve that problem.
Caleb Love from North Carolina is a name that is being tossed around recently. Love averaged 16.7 points for UNC last season, and would be a major offensive force. Kenyon Menifield from Washington University is another name to watch for. Menifield picked up all Pac-12 Freshman team honors this past season averaging 10 points and 3.1 assists per game.
Another big name to watch for is Churchill Abass, a 6’10 center. He, like Okorafor, is another NBA Academy Africa prospect who could be a name Payne brings on a scholarship.
This chart breaks down the alignment of scholarship players up to the 2026-2027 season.
Only Up from Here
It seems as if Payne is making all the right moves and is landing the right players to see significant improvements in year two of the Kenny Payne era. Nolan Smith may know more than us if his Twitter is any indication…
However, as we saw this year stars and rankings don’t mean a thing if the team doesn’t have the will to win.
Photo Courtesy// Gocards.com//