The University of Louisville men’s basketball team will play its first game one week from today.
The Cardinals will open the season with a game against Evansville next Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the KFC Yum Center and at this point, U of L coach Chris Mack said he’s not sure who will be available for the Cardinals because of a series of injuries.
Mack was asked during a virtual news conference on Wednesday what he expects from this team: “The first thing I’ll say: ‘Who’s going to be on the roster, who is going to be healthy for that game next week?’,” Mack responded.
Senior center Malik Williams is out at least 12 weeks after having surgery on his foot, while graduate transfer Charles Minlend will miss up to six weeks because of a knee injury. Sophomore Samuell Williamson has been battling an “aggravated patella tendon,” according to Mack, while redshirt freshman Jae’Lyn Withers sprained his ankle last week and sophomore Josh Nickelberry is still not fully back after offseason knee surgery.
“I think getting Sam back into the lineup and sort of getting his legs under him, we’re going to need him to be a guy that can score the ball and when Jae’Lynn gets healthy he can be a guy that I think is a tough mismatch for a lot of guys to cover because he’s so doggone quick,” Mack said. “When we have our full complement of players, we’ll be out there and competing and trying to win every single game that we play. But I don’t know that just yet.
“There may be some experimenting on the sidelines when we play Evansville.”
Mack said he doesn’t know when he will get some of his injured players back on the court.
“I’d like to be able to answer that, but some of the injuries that our guys are dealing with have been finicky, to say the least,” he said. “And, we have guys that want to be out there. Nobody’s sort of sandbag and holding back.”
An expected starter, Williamson missed a couple of weeks but was back on the court in limited fashion last week. Mack said he does expect he will be available for the opener.
“Sam Williamson is back,” he said. “He’s been dealing with an aggravated patellar tendon. That really gave him fits for three or four weeks here in the preseason. So it’s been a lot of moving pieces and a lot of moving parts to say the least here in practice. We’ve been down to six scholarship guys some days, so we’re doing what we can and anticipating getting those guys back. I would think Sam would be ready for our opener next week.”
Mack said Withers, who has drawn a lot of praise for his play in the preseason, suffered the ankle injury last week. Nickelberry has been dealing with his issue.
“Josh Nickelberry is sort of recovering and rehabbing from arthroscopic knee surgery to repair some meniscus,” Mack said. “So, he’s getting closer, I don’t know when he will be at full strength, or at least strong enough to be able to get on the court and practice and join us.
“. . . And then obviously, Jae’Lyn Withers is a guy that’s been rehabbing a sprained ankle that he twisted about a week ago. So the likelihood is we’ll get him back as well.”