Louisville landed arguably the top graduate transfer currently available when Radford guard Carlik Jones announced Sunday night that he will spend his final season of college as a Cardinal.
“I am headed to Louisville,” Jones told 247Sports. “It came down to my relationship with Coach Mack and the fact that I think he is a winner and a great coach. I think I will fit in really well with what they are doing there, and it gives me a chance to prove myself at the highest level, and show what I can do.”
The 2019-20 Big South Player of the Year, Jones averaged 20.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game for a Radford squad that went 21-11 and shared the Big South regular season title. He was the one of only three players in Division-I this past season to average better than 18 points, five rebounds and five assists per game.
A native of Cincinnati, Jones previously noted that Chris Mack — another native of Cincinnati — was the first coach to reach out to him once he entered the transfer portal. He has also previously stressed the importance of playing relatively close to his hometown.
Though he stands only 6’1, Jones can run the point or play off the ball. He’ll join a U of L backcourt that figures to be run by 6’5 sophomore point guard David Johnson, who emerged as Louisville’s starting floor general late in his freshman campaign.
“Fitting in with David I feel will be good,” said Jones. “I watched a lot of film on Louisville. I could see some of the stuff he was doing, and he it is similar to stuff I do. He passes well and gets to rim. I think we will work very well together.”
Though he wasn’t known much for his outside shot before 2019-20, Jones is coming off a junior season where he shot a scorching 40.9 percent on 115 attempts from beyond the arc. He also connected on 81.4 percent of his free-throw attempts.
What to love about Jones? He is a super fierce competitor who is going to talk shit, back it up, and want the ball in clutch situations. He’s a terrific passer, a terrific finisher, he’s got great body control and terrific basketball instincts.
It sounds silly, but when you watch Jones play, he’s the type of guy who makes it extremely apparent that he just knows the game. He’s always in the right place and he almost always makes the right decision. He makes up for a slight lack of athleticism by changing speeds effectively and hitting opposing guards with difficult to defend hesitation drives.
If there are a couple of areas of concern, the first has to be his ability to get to the rim against ACC competition in a way at least somewhat similar to the way he got to the rim against lesser competition. It’s the strongest part of his game, and if he’s turned into strictly a jump shooter, that’s probably not going to get it done. He hasn’t all that many opportunities to go against quality major conference opponents so far in his career, but when he has, his numbers have dipped. Having said that, he did drop 31 on a very good Liberty squad to kick off last season.
The other thing that Mack will be all over is his tendency for defensive lapses. He was something of a gambler on defense at Radford (1.4 steals per game), and we all know that won’t fly at U of L. In his final game with the Highlanders, Jones had a tough time with Hampton scoring sensation Jermaine Marrow, who dropped 36 as the Pirates pulled the upset in the Big South tournament semis.
Still, the good far, far outweighs any bad here. Jones can absolutely play at this level and it shouldn’t take long for him to prove that to anyone and everyone paying attention.
This is a major, major get for Louisville’s 2020-21 season.