With Montrezl Harrell moving on to the NBA, Louisville has to account for the loss of its most productive front court player in 2015-16 (they also lost guard Terry Rozier to the NBA). One of the big men who will be expected to step forward for the Cardinals is rising junior forward Mangok Mathiang, who will be Rick Pitino’s second-most productive returnee when next season begins.
Mathiang, who made nine starts and averaged 2.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest last season, is playing with Australia in this month’s World University Games and the experience could serve as a springboard into next season. Mathiang’s off to a good start in Gwangju, South Korea too, as he posted a double-double in the team’s comfortable win over Chinese Taipei on Friday.
Mathiang finished the night with 23 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 11-for-15 from the field against Australia’s overmatched opposition. Mathiang reached double figures in scoring twice last season, tallying 11 points in a win over Virginia Tech and 12 in a win over Pittsburgh. But given the loss of Harrell, Louisville will need more consistent play from the 6-foot-10 Mathiang if they’re to make a run at another Elite Eight appearance.
He won’t be the only option for Louisville inside, as the Cardinals return Chinanu Onuaku, Jaylen Johnson, Anas Mahmoud and Matz Stockman, and add Raymond Spalding. The Cardinals will certainly have bodies to call upon in the post; what they’ll need from those options is consistency.
Mathiang and his teammates, which include Albany senior Peter Hooley (who scored 15 points Friday) and former collegians Hugh Greenwood (New Mexico) and Mitch McCarron (Division II Player of the Year at Metro State last season), will face stiffer competition in South Korea beginning with France in their next game. But the 93-47 win is a good start for the Australians, especially if Mathiang can build on his performance.