Louisville basketball’s best kept secret could be Quinn Slazinski.
Much of the conversation surrounding the 2020-21 Louisville basketball team deals with the lack of proven commodities returning for the Cardinals.
Louisville loses a lot of production, especially up front with Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, and Steven Enoch departing. The Cardinals still have rising senior Malik Williams in the fold, and he will be expected to shoulder much of the load with returning point guard David Johnson and former All-American wing Samuell Williamson.
However, there is concern surrounding production from the four spot vacated by Nwora and Sutton.
When we asked head coach Chris Mack about his expectations for the four when he joined the BRL podcast, much of the conversation surrounded Jae’Lyn Withers. The 6’10” wing redshirted his freshman year, but Mack believes he can be a factor for the Cardinals next season.
It has been almost a forgone conclusion to many that Withers could be the next big thing for the Cardinals given his length and athleticism.
However, it is easy to quickly forget why Withers redshirted last season after initially being expected to play from day one.
It wasn’t until he and fellow 2019 recruit Quinn Slazinski arrived on campus that the Louisville staff pivoted and decided to let Withers have that sit-out season while Slazinski dressed every game and helped mostly in mop-up duty.
However, after seeing flashes of talent from Slazinski last season, the conversation has mostly centered around Withers once again.
Often times, it’s the unknown that leads us to want to see more in sports, and that’s what it sort of feels like at the four spot for Louisville this season. Many fans are excited about the promise of skill and athleticism from a relatively unknown commodity in Withers rather than a probable starter in Slazinski. And, perhaps. that shouldn’t be the case.
For the rising sophomore from Houston, Texas, playing the underdog role for the Louisville program is not uncharted territory. In fact, it’s what his mom, Georgianna, says he thrives off of.
“He never was like, ‘I want to play on the team where I get the ball in my hands all the time,’” Georgianna told Danielle Lerner of The Athletic. “The biggest, scariest thing, he always wanted to do it.”
Slazinski has always been scrutinized throughout his playing career. Much of that criticism came to a head during his freshman year in high school when he was rated the No. 1 player in his class in Houston. He and his mother recalled that people showed up to his tournaments to cheer against him and tear down his game.
This led to his mom making and giving out shirts that read “I HATE QUINN SLAZINSKI”, a play on the old Christian Laetner mantra when the former Duke superstar fed off national criticism.
Fast forward four years later to the start of Slazinski’s sophomore campaign at Louisville. He reclassified after a year at Huntington Prep and was the lowest-rated player in Louisville’s 2019 class. Now, after averaging 1.0 points and 0.7 rebounds in three minutes per game last season, Slazinski is going to see a greatly increased role in 2020-21.
Still, it’s not Slazinski that the conversation is centered around- Not even at his position.
Given his history, however, that shouldn’t be a deterrent for Slazinski going forward.
“He was the kid who doesn’t look like he can play, but he’s one of those guys who didn’t duck his head from nobody,” former Westbury coach Trey Austin told Lerner. “He’s one of those kids that loves when the crowd is talking noise or chanting stuff against him. He relished those times, to be honest with you. When you’ve got hecklers in the crowd, he was very prepared for it.”
Slazinski’s teammates can back up the assertion that he is virtually unbothered by difficult situations.
When prompted to name the best trash talker on last year’s Louisville basketball squad, Williams singled out Slazinski as the main culprit on the court.
Slazinski just seems to bring the attitude and swagger that Chris Mack wants to emulate on his squads at Louisville. Gone are the proven commodities from last season, but taking the place of Louisville’s stars are a group that he described as one that he wants to be more “confrontational” than last season.
This team, and particularly Slazinski, sets realistic expectations. Prior to enrolling with the Cardinals last season, Slazinski was enthusiastic about playing the role of JP Macura in Mack’s system. While Macura was a solid player for Mack at Xavier, it’s good to know that Slazinski is motivated by playing his role and doing what he can to make his team better.
If one thing is certain, regardless of the successes and failures of Louisville basketball’s 2020-21 squad, the Cardinals will have a motivated player with something more to prove in Slazinski.