After securing their third commitment for the 2014 class with 4-star power-forward, Jaylen Johnson (6-9 / 200), Louisville has proven one thing: this class could be Rick Pitino’s most versatile yet. Johnson like another Louisville target, Chinanu Onuaku, is only 16 years old; therefore any flaws in his game or need for development can be completely refined as they have nowhere near reached the ceiling of their respective games.
As scouting services and draft evaluations have noted, Johnson has the frame to put on more weight and fill out so that when he arrives at Louisville he will not get pushed around on the blocks like he does now. Early on at Louisville I look for him to be more of a Rakeem Buckles type four-man that can do a few things on the block, get hustle put backs, but also runs the floor, handles the ball a bit, and float around on the perimeter. As he grows into his game I expect him to spend less time on the perimeter and more time down on the blocks.
Like many others, I too look for a former Card to compare prospects too, and the name that has been thrown around a lot in regards to Jaylen Johnson is Earl Clark. While they have a similar frame, and I like the comparison I want to see Johnson develop a bit more before that connection becomes stronger for me. His athleticism and penchant to put some flare on his passes remind me of Earl, but at this point in his development and with similar rankings by recruiting services, look for Jaylen to look a lot more like Buckles at the beginning of his career, with his ceiling being closer to Earl Clark.
Johnson provides versatility in the front court for the Cardinals, Louisville’s other two commitments also provide Pitino with a lot of options in the back court/wings. Jaquan Lyle is listed by some services as a point guard prospect while others have him as a shooting guard. With Lyle being the only true guard in this class now his ability to play both positions is an asset for the Cardinals going forward. He can play lead guard and give Pitino height that he has never had at the top of the zone, and facilitate points for teammates, or slide to the two spot and fill it up himself. While Louisville fans have come to love the small scrappy guard, from McGee to Siva, and now Chris Jones, it will be nice to see what Pitino’s match-up zone will look like with a 6-4 guard at the top of it.
The third player that completes Louisville’s 2014 trio to date is the definition of versatility. Shaqquan Aaron a 6-8 wing from the west coast (Seattle) can do so much for the Cards. Like Johnson his game is still so raw, but the glimpses of super-star talent he has displayed at times have everyone excited. He is an absolute match-up nightmare. With his size he can shoot over any guard who tries to defend him, and his ability to put the ball on the deck allows him to get by any big man who tries to body him up. Once again like Johnson, he needs to add muscle to his frame, but once that happens look out. If he stops growing now he could play anywhere on the floor from shooting guard to power forward, but if he continues to get any bigger he could become exclusively a 3/4 combo for the Cardinals making him a scary opponent both offensively and defensively for anyone Louisville plays. When comparing him to other players, there isn’t really a former Card he reminds me of except Earl Clark in terms of their perimeter game, but since his first highlight tapes, every time I see Aaron play I can’t help but relate his game to Wesley Johnson, former Syracuse standout, and former Longhorn great Kevin Durant. I know that last comparison seems a bit much but he really does remind me of a young Durant. Obviously he is still very raw at this time, but the lanky wing with the height of a 4 yet plays like a 2 give way to the comparison. I am also by no means saying he is or will ever be as good as Durant, but if he models his game after him, then he will be a deadly asset for Pitino.
With a spot or two still left to fill in this class, Louisville has already done an amazing job at finding players that not only fill holes left by departing players, but provide the future roster with a plethora of options at the same time. Louisville needs at least one more big in this class which they hope to fill with a narrowing list of players including Trey Lyles, Chinanu Onuaku, Cliff Alexander, Myles Turner, and JUCO power-forward Cinmeon Bowers. Louisville is also keeping their options open for a couple of back court players like Isaiah Whitehead and James Blackmon.
While I know many fans would like to see the sexy name and highly regarded Trey Lyles to be a part of this class, I’m not sure if I quite agree. Although he might be the most ready of any high school player to come in and make an impact, he doesn’t seem to fit for some reason. I would much rather see Louisville round out this class with another raw shot blocker in Chinanu Onuaku, and Cinmeon Bowers, who coming from junior college has the frame and ability to step in and fill the void left by either Behannan or Harrell (or both) after next season. I believe that would be just the right balance of youth and experience to fill out the front court.
So while there are still a few spots left to fill in this class, one thing is for sure, Pitino is going for size and versatility in this class and I believe that it will pay huge dividends moving forward when the Cards join the ACC in 2014.
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