Rebuilding or reloading, Louisville basketball will be different

Somewhat unsettling the amount of attrition that may occur after the University of Louisville basketball program came within a free throw and tip-in of another Final Four. But the roster churn is not surprising, given the lack of playing time for some players expected to play greater roles this past season.

Montrezl Harrell is going pro, and Terry Rozier probably taking the same route. No problem, they’re both capable of making it in the NBA. Best wishes and good luck to them.

What gives one pause, however, is that Anton Gill has already announced that he’s going elsewhere. Chinanu Onuaku and Shaqquan Aaron may be close behind. If you include Wayne Blackshear, Louisville could be losing six players, including four of five starters. [Update: Onuaku is staying, but another unnamed player may not.]

What was disappointing this season is that UofL rarely got any help from the bench, which translated to frustration for the players who got very little playing time. It also resulted in a lack of development for reserves and some of the starters playing far too many minutes.

Exhibit One: a physically exhausted starting unit in the an NCAA regional championship game. The motivational speeches will only get you so far.

Roster churn doesn’t inspire much confidence among UofL fans who enjoy watching players develop and improve during their careers. Expect to see more than the normal amount of new faces next season, including some fifth-year players and junior college transfers to go with the 2015 recruiting class.

The 2015 class includes two five-star players in 6-foot-7 forward Deng Adel, from Bradenton, Fla., and 6-foot-2 guard Donovan Mitchell, from Greenwich, Conn., along with 6-foot-9 forward Raymond Spalding, from Louisville Trinity, and 6-foot-1 guard Ryan McMahon, from Sarasota, Fla. They’re going to have to prove they can play within Rick Pitino’s system or see a lot of action from the bench.

Pitino is, in effect, starting all  over. The coach says he’s reloading, but it bears a close resemblance to a rebuilding. That could have been said of the past season, but look where his team finished — one bucket short of the Final Four. Whatever the case, he’s going to need much more depth if he hopes to exceed expectations again next year.

Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.