Louisville, KY – When Louisville and Memphis get together it’s always a battle and this bitter rivalry game was no different in Thursday night’s 73 – 67 Memphis victory. The two teams are led by ultra-quick senior guards Joe Jackson and Russ Smith, however in this contest a trio of young frontcourt players stole the show. Louisville sophomore Montrezl Harrell and Memphis sophomore Shaq Goodwin and freshman Austin Nichols showed why they are all on multiple NBA team’s radar.
At 6’8, 240 pounds, Harrell has a chiseled upper body and huge wingspan of 7’4″. Harrell is a phenomenal athlete who plays above the rim and finished multiple dunks in this game with authority. He lacks any sort of post-up game and must learn to play with his back to the basket or develop a mid-range jump shot. While his offense has a ways to go, no one questions how hard Harrell plays as he is constantly diving on the floor for loose balls and his motor is nonstop. Harrell could use another year in school to improve his offensive skill set but with his athleticism and strength he is a sure fire future first round draft pick.
After a disappointing freshman season, Goodwin has become an inside force for the Tigers in his sophomore campaign. He ferociously attacks the glass on both ends of the floor and is one of the more physical players in the country. Goodwin completely changed his body in the offseason and is in great condition which shows in the way he battles in the post every possession. Goodwin is shooting a ridiculous 65% from the floor and if he can improve his face up game he has an opportunity to become an effective NBA power forward.
At 6’9″, 205 pounds Austin Nichols needs to live in the weight room this offseason, but if he adds the necessary strength we could be watching a future lottery pick. Nichols is an exceptional athlete who deflated Louisville with two second half put back dunks in a huge road victory for the Tigers. If he can improve his mid-range shot he could be deadly, catching the ball in the high post and facing up. Adding weight will be the key to Nichols being able to defend bigger post players and improve on his 4.1 rebounds a game average.
In a game that was expected to be dominated by the backcourts these three post players showed the ability to be future pros. The physicality in the post was brutal for forty minutes and the Tigers duo of Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin won Round 1. However, something tells me Montrezl Harrell is looking forward to revenge when the Cardinals visit Memphis on March 1st.
John “Wes” Hinton is a Correspondent and Scout for NetScouts Basketball.