Louisville basketball: What the loss of Malik Williams means for the team

Malik Williams #5 of the Louisville Cardinals(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Malik Williams #5 of the Louisville Cardinals(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Malik Williams being lost for at least three months is a huge blow to the Cardinals. What other options do they have for success?

Louisville basketball star Malik Williams announced on Saturday morning via his Twitter that he would be out for at least 12 weeks due to surgery for an injury.

A release from GoCards.com confirmed the news and further clarified that Williams has a fracture in his fifth metatarsal (a bone in the foot). The release also stated that Malik will have the surgery sometime next week.

The news hits hard as the Cardinals are set to start the season on November 25 against Southern Illinois as part of theWade Houston Tipoff Classic. Even if Williams does extremely well with his recovery, he may not be available until early February. Even that may be an optimistic look at things.

Cards fans may recall in the preseason last year, Williams had a screw inserted into the same bone in his foot after breaking it in late September. He was out for a couple of months for that injury and procedure.

Regardless, this is a massive blow to the program at a position where experience is lacking (to say the least). Williams was a projected starter and team captain for the team after finishing the 2019-20 season as the runner-up for the ACC Sixth Man of the Year award.

While this loss will certainly hurt the team and their chances of success for the 2020-21 campaign, the show must go on. Let’s take a look at some potential starting lineups while accounting for the loss of Malik.

Lineup 1

PG Carlik Jones – 6’1″ 185 lbs

SG David Johnson – 6’5″ 210 lbs

SF Charles Minlend – 6’4″ 220 lbs

PF Sam Williamson – 6’7″ 210 lbs

C Jae’Lyn Withers – 6’8″ 230 lbs

This is a small-ball lineup for ACC standards. This is tough. Withers will be seeing his first playing time this season after redshirting for the 2019-20 year. However, this is a good floor spacing option if the Cardinals want to have a shooter at every position.

While Withers at center is far less than ideal, the only other option is Aidan Igiehon. Withers is more refined as an offensive player, but he possesses more of a “stretch four” kind of build in comparison to what Igiehon brings.

You can live with Williamson at the “4” spot as he is a long 6’7″. However, he is going to have to scrap for boards with the big boys in the paint. As Williamson goes into his second year, he is going to see a ton of minutes.

It was reported Friday night that Williamson and sophomore role player Josh Nickelberry are dealing with some sort of injury leading up to the season. We will have more updates as they come on these two.

Jones, Johnson, and Minlend are the safe options at the starting positions. Carlik Jones and Charles Minlend will be counted on to provide early sparks as the young sophomores in the lineup find their footing. David Johnson was a guy generating major buzz during ACC play before COVID shut things down.

Lineup 2

PG Carlik Jones – 6’1″ 185 lbs

SG David Johnson – 6’5″ 210 lbs

SF Samuell WIlliamson – 6’7″ 210 lbs

PF Jae’Lyn Withers – 6’8″ 230 lbs

C Aidan Igiehon – 6’10 245 lbs

Now, this lineup intrigues me. In theory, this group should be winning the battle of rebounds in most (if not all) games. This is a big (and talented) lineup despite Williams’ absence. Ideally, this is what Chris Mack would hope to have materialize by the middle of the schedule.

However, Igiehon was very raw in 2019-20 and it was very clear he was more of a junkyard dog out there gathering rebounds than he was a complete basketball player. If Igiehon develops, this is an extremely talented lineup with skill from the “1” to the “4” positions.

With this lineup, you would have Charles Minlend, Josh Nickelberry, and freshman Dre Davis being the primary guys off of the bench. A positive substitution could put Sam Williamson at the power forward position while Davis or Minlend play the “3” spot.

The Cardinals are going to be forced to play small ball while Williams recovers whether they like it or not. How they decide to rotate the lineups will be very interesting to see. Chris Mack will have his hands certainly full with one of Louisville’s best players out for the foreseeable future.

We are sending out our best wishes to Malik on a quick and safe recovery.