Five Louisville Players That Must be Retained After Kenny Payne's Firing

A new era will begin soon in Louisville

Louisville v Syracuse
Louisville v Syracuse / Rich Barnes/GettyImages
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The Louisville Cardinals fired Kenny Payne earlier this morning and while a coaching search has now begun to determine the new head coach for the Cardinals, the players will likely not make a decision to transfer until that coach is decided. Some players will decide to leave likely before that, but those were probably players that wanted to transfer even if Payne was retained.

Payne brought in a deep recruiting class this past season and it will be interesting to see which players stay and which players decide to transfer out of the university. Here are the top 5 key players that could lead Louisville to having a much more successful 2024-24 basketball season:

1. Junior Forward, Brandon Huntley-Huntley

Brandon Huntley-Hatfield
Louisville v Syracuse / Rich Barnes/GettyImages

Brandon Huntley-Hatfield exploded onto the scene in his junior year at Louisville, and has been the most consistent player on defense and offense for the Cardinals this season. Hatfield averaged 12.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, while shooting 56.7% from the floor and 42.9% from three this season. Those stats are also bogged down, as Hatfield was averaging 16+ points and 10+ rebounds for the 2nd half of the season for Louisville after a slow start to the year.

Hatfield could bring a lot to Louisville next year if he were to return, and would be a key component on both sides of the ball no matter who the head coach is come November.

2. Sophomore Guard, Skyy Clark

Skyy Clark
Louisville v Syracuse / Rich Barnes/GettyImages

Skyy Clark was a transfer out of Illinois and has been a key ball handler for Louisville all season. Clark just had a 36-point performance against the Cardinal's last game against NC State, and has really been on point for Louisville towards the end of the season.

Clark has been averaging 12.4 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 39.5% from the field overall, and while Clark's 3-point percentage is in the low 30s he has proven to be a good shooter from the perimeter lately. As he made 7 threes in his last game and has been a much better scorer in recent weeks. Retaining Clark would be a good foundational piece for next years team, and would likely be one of the better playmakers and scorers on the team.

3. Ty-Laur Johnson

Ty-Laur Johnson
Louisville v Syracuse / Rich Barnes/GettyImages

Ty-Laur Johnson came in as a freshman this season for Louisville, and after getting eligibility and not playing much in November he made a huge impact on the team. Johnson averaged 8.7 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, while shooting 37.2% from the floor and 82% from the free throw line. Johnson also had the most prolific game in the history of UofL freshman, as he scored 27 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, with only 3 turnovers.

Johnson is without a doubt the best playmaker and passer on this team, and would prove to be a vital foundational piece for whoever will coach this team next season.

4. Freshman Forward, Kaleb Glenn

Kaleb Glenn
Louisville v Pittsburgh / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Kaleb Glenn was another incoming freshman for Louisville this season, and while it took him a while to get valuable minutes he made a name for himself in February. Glenn averaged 3.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, and shot 49.2% from the floor overall last season for the Cardinals.

Glenn had 13 point and 15 rebound game against Georgia Tech in a win last month for Louisville, and showed that he could be a big piece for this team going forward. Glenn was asked to defend players much bigger than him throughout the season at center, which did not workout well since Glenn is only 6'6. If the next head coach can use Glenn in the right ways instead of using him as a big, then he could be a key contributor for the Cardinals in 2025.

5. Sophomore Guard, Mike James

Mike James
Louisville v Pittsburgh / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Mike James was a key part of the Kenny Payne era at Louisville, and his play up and down the stretch in the past 2 years were the reason for the little success Louisville had. James averaged 12.6 points, 5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, while shooting 39.6% from the floor, and 34% from the perimeter.

James was on a tear towards the end of Payne's first season and the first half of this season. However, the last month or so James has been playing like a shell of his former self. We all know James can play good basketball, it just seems to be a matter of if the coaching staff can get it out of him or not. James could be a good foundational piece of Louisville's 2024-25 team if he decides to stay.