Louisville basketball: The one player to benefit most from Jay Scrubb decision

Samuell Williamson #10 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Samuell Williamson #10 of the Louisville Cardinals (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Well, it’s official. Louisville basketball’s star recruit won’t play for the Cards in 2020-21. Why that means one current player may stand to benefit more than anyone else.

When 2020 Louisville basketball star signee Jay Scrubb announced his attention to declare for the upcoming NBA Draft on the heels of his superb junior college career there wasn’t one person around the program who was surprised.

In fact, we all knew it was coming. Since Scrubb popped up on the radar for Chris Mack and the Cardinals as well as a few other elite college basketball programs, there’s been talk about the JUCO star being a potential NBA talent.

A decision would have to be made about whether he played college basketball or went straight to the pros, but before that could be made Scrubb had to decide on where he’d play if he ever did step foot on a collegiate court.

Ultimately, he decided to come home, signing with Louisville after spending his entire life in the city and playing his high school basketball Trinity. It gave the Cards a legit star, one that Evan Daniels once classified as a top 15-20 player in the class, to their 2020 class adding to the core group of returnees including likely stars Samuell Williamson and David Johnson.

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This wasn’t the first time Louisville’s had to deal with a player being on the fence about playing college ball over going straight to the professional ranks. Of course, we all remember Sebastian Telfair, Donta Smith (who happens to be the last JUCO player to be drafted), Amir Johnson, and more recently Anfernee Simons (although he had decommitted from Louisville by the time he announced his decision to go pro) but that didn’t keep us from being optimistic about Scrubb deciding he needed another year to get ready for the draft.

We knew the day would come when Scrubb would declare for the NBA Draft, so nearly two weeks ago when the announcement was made that the JUCO star would enter without hiring an agent, keeping his ability to join the Louisville basketball program, no one was surprised. Scrubb and his father told Mark Ennis of 93.9 The Ville that the intention was to go through the draft process in order to find a team that would draft Jay and if that was unlikely to happen then the possibility to return was an option.

I’ve operated the last two weeks as if Scrubb was not going to end up in Louisville when writing pieces on needs and transfers, and ultimately it looked like the right move. On Thursday afternoon, Scrubb made his intentions known to Evan Daniels that he wouldn’t be playing for Louisville, instead, focusing on becoming a “professional.”

With that decision now made, Chris Mack and the entire Louisville basketball roster can move on not worrying about whether in the end they’ll be left without enough time to recruit. That means adding another player to the roster with the open scholarship and beginning to put lineups and plans together that don’t include Scrubb.

While having the 6’6 wing with elite athleticism and scoring ability would have potentially made Louisville a top 10-15 team, especially after adding grad transfer Carlik Jones, it also would’ve come with unintended consequences. Scrubb was likely to start at the three, a position that many expected Williamson to take over, instead, pushing the former McDonald’s All-American to the four spot.

In my opinion, that could have seriously hampered the potential and development of Williamson especially when you start thinking about what Scrubb would have to produce to improve his draft stock in college. Not to mention, Williamson’s body is still a work in progress. Without Scrubb, now Williamson can truly focus on developing to the elite small forward that Chris Mack and this Louisville basketball teams need to be a contender in the ACC.

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In fact, Scrubb going pro likely helps Williamson more than anyone else. Scrubb would’ve demanded the ball and shots in the offense in 2020-21, and while Williamson absolutely would’ve been a big part of the plans now not having Scrubb frees up more offensive freedom for the rising sophomore.

Last season we saw plenty of flashes of what the former McDonald’s All-American could do and develop into as a freshman. Without question, he was the smoothest player on team 106, got to the bucket with ease, and displayed a dynamic mid-range game while developing as a three-point shooter.

It wasn’t always pretty as some games we saw Williamson play 10 minutes without having any impact while in others, like the season opener against Miami, we saw a player capable of being one-and-done.

With Scrubb officially heading to the NBA, don’t be surprised to see Williamson make a Jordan Nwora-esque leap in his freshman to sophomore year. Leading the team in scoring may be a hot take or bold prediction, but it is without question something we could see.

In high school, Williamson was a lethal scorer, whether it was from mid-range or from deep, and while it took a little longer than possible to develop that shouldn’t stop anyone from believing it will happen in his second season at Louisville. Let’s also not forget the other players we’ve seen make incredible leaps in their second years in college. Jordan Nwora, Donovan Mitchell, Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell, Ray Spalding, the list goes on and on. Williamson will be the next in line and could potentially be the player who has the most potential at the next level.

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Finding his grove as the team’s go-to guy may take time and come with lumps, as the same can be said for all of Louisville’s rising sophomores, but with Jones able to carry the Cards in scoring as needed and the playmaking of David Johnson around, Louisville will be just fine.