What Josh Nickelberry's commitment means to Louisville basketball

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What Josh Nickelberry's commitment means to Louisville basketball

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What Josh Nickelberry's commitment means to Louisville basketball

There was the meeting with current players and the meeting with former players. There was the stop in San Antonio for the Final Four. There were myriad local and national radio interviews. There was the late addition of graduate transfer Christen Cunningham for this next season.

And there was, of course, the introductory press conference and rally with scores of key figures in and around Louisville athletics in attendance.

But no event in the early stages of Chris Mack’s time as Louisville’s men’s basketball coach was as important as last night, when the new Cards leader landed his first commitment from a high school prospect since moving into his office on Floyd Street two months ago.

Josh Nickelberry, a 6-foot-4 guard and high school junior from North Carolina, represents so much for Louisville. His pledge, which came minutes before 9 p.m. Thursday, is as symbolic as it is basketball-relevant.

Josh Nickelberry, a 6-foot-4 guard and high school junior from North Carolina, represents so much for Louisville. His pledge, which came minutes before 9 p.m. Thursday, is as symbolic as it is basketball-relevant.

The fan base lives day-to-day, with so many fans joking that they just want a quiet day or two. With the ongoing off-court drama, silence has been hard to come by.

Nickelberry’s decision, which came Thursday when he approached his parents and, according to his dad, Gerald, simply said, “Hey, I want to be a Cardinal,” was a welcome disruption.

Third, and this is probably the biggest item in terms of importance, Nickelberry’s commitment reflects the early work Mack and his assistants have put in on the recruiting trail.

When it comes to 2019 prospects and beyond, Louisville’s coaches hit the ground running, reaffirming scholarship offers they extended to recruits at Xavier the night before they were even publicly announced at Louisville.

They hosted Nickelberry on a one-day campus visit last month, and the Nickelberry family “fell in love with the place,” Gerald said, adding that Mack was “relentless” in his recruitment of Nickelberry.

David Johnson, Trinity’s talented scoring guard who previously committed to Louisville, has also been on campus numerous times and is considered likely to re-commit to the Cards.

Now Jahmius Ramsey and Jaelyn Withers are reportedly set to visit Louisville this weekend, and Kevin McCullar (June 18-20) and Orlando Robinson (Sept. 14-16) will make official visits in the near future. All four are four-star prospects in the 2019 class, and there will be others who set up visits, too.

If Mack wants to win early and often at Louisville, he needs program-building players. And even though Mack’s contract is lengthy — seven years with a clause that could get him eight — he won’t want to spend much time rebuilding.

Adding that kind of talent will make that goal far more attainable.

Beyond that, Mack needs players who will show other prospects that at least someone with bona fide talent believes it’s OK to play for the Cards again, even amid the uncertainty that hangs over the program and university as everyone awaits more from the FBI and NCAA.

Nickelberry became that guy on Thursday night.

And that is very significant — for Mack, for Louisville basketball, and for Louisville’s fan base.

For more, visit the Courier-Journal

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What Josh Nickelberry's commitment means to Louisville basketball
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