Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell will be returning to school for his junior season. He made the announcement on his twitter feed on Monday afternoon.
Harrell averaged 14.0 points and 8.4 boards as a sophomore for Rick Pitino’s club and was projected as the No. 19 pick in the 2014 Draft, according to Draft Express. Harrell’s decision is the first major surprise when it comes to draft decision. Most analysts had Harrell heading out to the NBA, but the belief is that Harrell can play himself into the lottery if he can prove that he can develop a jumper and a back-to-the-basket game as a junior.
This is huge news for the Cardinals next season. They are already losing Russ Smith and Luke Hancock, and with Chane Behanan’s departure during the season, their front line was already quite thin this year. While the Cardinals have a solid recruiting class coming in — Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku are both top 100 front court players while Matz Stockman and Anas Osama Mahmoud are both promising seven-footers — and Akoy Agau and Mangok Mathiang returning, that’s quite a bit of youth for a team entering the ACC next season.
Harrell’s decision to return means that he’ll be able to anchor Louisville’s front line while allowing that group to develop in school for a year. With Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear returning — and with Shaqquan Aaron and Quentin Snider joining the program this season — Louisville suddenly looks like they may end up being an ACC contender this year.
We did not have Louisville in our preseason top 25 as we were assuming that they would be without Harrell. With Harrell back in the fold, the Cardinals will likely fall somewhere in the 10-15 range.