Kenny Payne and the University of Louisville basketball program currently have 12 scholarship players on their roster. That means they have one open scholarship left. Many people thought that it was reserved for Mackenzie Mgbako. But, he chose to cancel his Louisville visit and committed to Head Coach Mike Woodson and the Indiana Hoosiers shortly after.
However, the good news is that Kenny Payne can extend his last offer to a skilled ball-handler. And UC-Riverside’s Zyon Pullin would be a perfect candidate. Just before the NCAA Transfer Portal window closed on May 11th, news broke that Zyon Pullin intended to enter his name into the portal. And now it is official.
A 6-foot-4 guard with impressive ball skills will certainly be a coveted prospect in the portal and Louisville is in need of another ball-handler. He could come off the bench for Skyy Clark, or they both could share the court together.
A recent article was published by Busting Brackets and the author Tristan Freeman lists 10 teams that should pursue the California native. The list includes Arizona, Baylor, Florida, Gonzaga, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas State, Louisville, Ole Miss, and UCLA. His reasoning for Louisville to reach out is as follows:
"“To the Cardinals’ credit, they have upgraded the roster from top to bottom after winning just four games total last season. To their discredit, they’re following a similar pattern to last offseason, loading up on wings and forwards and not enough ball-handlers.The only D-I ball-handler they added was Skyy Clark, who only played 13 games as a freshman at Illinois. Louisville needs to add another ball-handler with experience and Pullin would be perfect for the role. Plus, he and Clark can play together in the backcourt.”"
A fair assessment of the situation from someone outside of the Louisville community. Louisville has added several wings and could use another ball handler. Kenny Payne likes his players tall, specifically guards, and Pullin would fit that description, standing at 6-foot-4.
It is expected that JUCO transfer Koron Davis will play point guard and don’t forget that Hercy Miller is on the roster. So, between Clark, Davis, and Miller, Louisville has ball handlers, but it never hurts to add more talent to a Top-5 incoming class. Zyon Pullin, as mentioned above, averaged 18.3 points per game last season, by far his best season as a Highlander.
Coming out of high school, Pullin did not receive many scholarship offers. In fact, per 247Sports, UC-Riverside is the only school that extended him an offer, which he capitalized on very quickly. But now, we are in an expeditious world of the transfer portal and NIL, and players from smaller programs are finding more and more opportunities at Division I schools.
Particularly, in Pullin’s case, he will likely have many options to choose from. Touted as one of the best playmakers in college basketball last season, he will make an immediate impact on whichever team he ends up on.
The only reported team to reach out to him thus far is West Virginia, but I would imagine Division I schools will be lining up for the former All-Big West Second Team star. Another aspect of his character that would appeal to Kenny Payne is that he was named to the Big West All-Academic Team last season as well.
If and when he does announce his transfer destination, he will be a graduate transfer. It will be exciting to watch his recruitment unfold.