As if the offseason already hadn't been challenging enough for Rick Pitino, the Louisville coach learned this week that neither his projected starting small forward nor a key reserve wing will be on his roster next season.
Memphis transfer Roburt Sallie was hoping to take advantage of an NCAA rule granting transfers immediate eligibility if their new school has a graduate program not offered by their former school, but Louisville announced he did not meet admission requirements. Both the Louisville Courier-Journal and Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported that Sallie did not graduate from Memphis in time to meet the deadline to apply for graduate school.
Louisville would have been better equipped to absorb the loss of Sallie had 6-foot-5 incoming freshman wing Justin Coleman not failed to qualify academically. Coleman, Louisville's highest-profile recruit and Rivals.com's No. 50 player in the Class of 2010, signed with the Cardinals in May and would have competed for immediate playing time.
The absence of both Sallie and Coleman lends more credence the notion that Louisville may struggle to even make the NCAA tournament this season. The Cardinals lost Samardo Samuels, Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith and Reginald Delk off a team that barely snuck into the NCAA tournament a year ago and then got thumped in the first round by Pac-10 champ California.
Although Pitino is working on a recruiting class that could replenish Louisville's roster in time for the 2011 season, that talent won't arrive soon enough to solve the Cardinals' depth issues at wing. Six-foot-4 reserve shooting guard Kyle Kuric will almost certainly start at small forward next season, and 6-foot-8 forward Jared Swopshire will likely see some time on the wing as well.
Pitino has said Louisville will get back to his full-court-pressing roots next season to take advantage of the athleticism of big men Swopshire and Terrence Jennings. Now with the Cardinals looking thin at wing, it will be interesting to see if they still have the roster to fit that style.