Currently sitting at 16-3 and coming off of a National Championship last season, life is good if you’re a Louisville Cardinals fan. Rick Pitino has transformed Louisville into a national powerhouse who competes year-in and year-out to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Regardless of what happens this season, this team will take a huge hit to their team next season, with seniors Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, and Stephan Van Treese graduating. To add, sophomore Montrezl Harrell has had a much-improved season and is projected to be drafted in the middle of the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft by many writers, including myself. Smith, Hancock, and Harrell are absolutely huge parts of this team and are the heart and soul of what Pitino has built at Louisville. Based on the success of the program, however, he was able to lure in some big-time prospects.
How did Pitino respond to the fact he will be losing those crucial players? He signed five four-star recruits. Yes, five.
Shaqquan Aaron is ranked as the No. 9 small forward in his class by ESPN.com. The 6-foot-6 Seattle, Washington native will be looking to make an immediate impact and start as a freshman. It isn’t far out of the realm of possibility that he may do just that. Quentin Snider is the No. 5 point guard in next year’s class, according to ESPN. The 6-foot, 1 facilitator is right from Louisville, playing his high school ball at Ballard High School. He will most likely be making his impact backing up Terry Rozier, who will most likely take over for Russ Smith at the starting point guard spot. Jaylen Johnson is the No. 14 power forward in next year’s class, rated by ESPN. The 6-foot-9 big man is from Ypsilanti, Michigan, and if Harrell declares for the NBA, could take over at that position in the starting lineup. Chinanu Onuaku is ESPN’s No. 8 center in next year’s class. The 6-foot, 10-inch Riverdale Baptist High School big man lives in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. If Mangok Mathiang declares for the NBA Draft, which I don’t think he will, Onuaku will certainly challenge the next prospect for a starting spot. Matz Stockman is Pitino’s most recent signee, and is rated as the No. 14 center by ESPN. Playing his basketball at Canarias Basketball Academy in Norway, the massive 7-foot-2 big man will most likely be a work-in-progress, but obviously has the potential to be a standout talent for Louisville going forward in the ACC.
All I have to say is, luckily for the rest of the teams in the AAC, Louisville will be leaving after this season. Louisville’s program is truly the model of consistency.