LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Six outstanding high school products have each signed a national letter-of-intent to continue their basketball playing careers at the University of Louisville, ranking this Cardinal group among the nation’s top recruiting classes.
The list of impressive signees includes Aidan Igiehon, a 6-10, 230-pound forward from Dublin, Ireland and Lawrence Woodmere (N.Y.) Academy; David Johnson, a 6-5, 180-pound guard from Trinity High School in Louisville; Josh Nickelberry, a 6-4, 175-pound guard from Northwood Temple Academy in Fayetteville, N.C.; Quinn Slazinski, a 6-8, 200-pound forward from Houston and Huntington (W. Va.) Prep; Samuell Williamson, a 6-7, 190-pound guard from Rockwall (Texas) High School; and Jae’Lyn Withers, a 6-8, 215-pound forward from Charlotte, N.C. who will play his final season at Cleveland (Ohio) Heights High School.
Louisville’s class is ranked as the best in the nation by ESPN.com, third by Rivals.com and fourth by 247sports.com. All six individuals are ranked highly among the nation’s prospects, including five of the six among ESPN’s top 100.
“I’m extremely excited to announce our 2019 fall signings,” said UofL head coach Chris Mack. ”I want to give great credit to my coaching staff for all of their hard work and exhausting efforts to land such a highly talented class. Luke (Murray), Mike (Pegues) and Dino (Gaudio) never slept. Our support staff worked their tails off on recruiting visits to make our recruits and their families feel at home. And home now for six wonderful young men will be the University of Louisville, one of the premier programs in all of college basketball. I’d also like to thank all of the parents of our incoming recruits. You all have raised special young men. Your willingness to entrust us with your son’s collegiate years is a responsibility we take very seriously. We could not be more excited to welcome our newest Cardinals to the University of Louisville.”
Igiehon (pronounced i-GAY-hawn) averaged 18.2 points and 15 rebounds as a junior last season in helping Lawrence Woodmere to a 20-5 record and the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Class B Championship, earning first team all-state honors.
“Aidan was one of the highest regarded big men in America during the summer,” said Mack. “It wasn’t always that way. He came over from Ireland on his own prior to his freshman year and set up shop at Lawrence Woodmere as a nobody. He wasn’t recruited to the States, he wasn’t a known commodity. He’s been raised with discipline and saw his mother’s work ethic up close his entire life. It blazed his path as a player. He’s a gym rat who wants to be special. He’s as athletic as they come, tough and extremely versatile. Like all incoming freshman, he has a learning curve, but his desire to improve will get him there. We will need Aidan to affect the game at the rim on both ends of the floor. Aidan has the ability to move away from the basket on both ends of the floor. He’s not just a metal eater. He’s willing and able to do anything his coach asks.”
Nicknamed the “Irish Hulk,” Igiehon is ranked No. 13 nationally in the ESPN 100, No. 44 by 247Sports.com and is No. 50 by Rivals.com.
“This is my fifth season coaching Aidan on our varsity team and each year he has made huge strides,” said Jeff Weiss, Igehon’s high school coach at Lawrence Woodmere. “Aidan is a relentless worker, arriving at school at 6 a.m. most days to work on his game. His strength, athleticism, and work ethic make his future bright. He’s a mature, intelligent young man, and carries a 3.6 GPA. I wish him much success at Louisville and beyond.”
Igiehon was a New York State Sportswriters Association second team all-state selection as a sophomore when he averaged 21.1 points per game, helping Woodmere to a 26-3 record and the NYSAIS Class C Championship. He was a third team selection his freshman year when he averaged 20 points per game.
He averaged 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds last summer with his AAU team Team Rio National.
Igiehon was 13-years-old when he arrived in Brooklyn, New York on June 28, 2014 to live with his aunt and uncle. He had first picked up a basketball when he was 12. Mack visited Igiehon’s mother in Clondalkin, West Dublin, Ireland during the recruiting process. His brother Brandon is a junior at SUNY Potsdam, where he plays soccer for the Bears.
The only Irish-born player to reach the NBA is Pat Burke, who played with the Orlando Magic (2002-03) and Phoenix Suns (2005-07). Burke moved from Ireland to the U.S. when he was three-years-old, so Igiehon hopes to be the first Irish born-and-raised person to play in the NBA.
Igiehon chose to attend Louisville after also including Oregon, Kentucky and St. John’s among his final choices.
Johnson averaged 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 42.9 percent from three-point distance (54-of-126) as a junior last season in helping Trinity to a 30-4 record, the Seventh Region championship and a spot in the Kentucky Sweet 16, earning first team all-state honors.
“A lot has been made about David being a hometown kid,” said Mack, “but DJ could be from Alaska and I’d want him on our team. David plays the game to win and plays the game for his teammates. On defense, David has length, quickness and anticipation. Offensively, he’s at his best when he gets the ball in his hands as he’s a high level passer and loves making his teammates better. He’s well-coached coming from Trinity, so the seeds of being a great teammate and hard worker have been sown. DJ will add size and athleticism in our backcourt from day one.”
Johnson is ranked No. 47 nationally by 247Sports.com, No. 72 in the ESPN 100, and No. 98 by Rivals.com.
“David is a special basketball player that impacts the game all over the floor, said Chris Szabo, Johnson’s coach at Trinity. “He can score from anywhere on the court, while also having tremendous vision to make everyone around him better. He leads by example with his team attitude and effort. I am so proud of DJ and so happy for his family. He has worked very hard to make this moment possible. Coach Mack and Louisville are getting a player and a person in David who will help them compete for championships. He will also represent the team and the University of Louisville in a first-class manner.”
Johnson nearly produced a triple-double in the Shamrocks’ state tournament game against eventual runner-up Scott County when he totaled 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. He connected on 42.9 percent from three-point distance (54-of-126) and 67.6 percent of his free throws (48-of-71) as a junior last season.
Johnson was a third-team all-state selection as a sophomore when he averaged 10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and shot 47.8 percent from the field helping Trinity achieve a 29-4 record.
Recent UofL forward Ray Spalding (2015-18), who is in his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks, was also a product of Trinity High School.
Johnson had narrowed his collegiate choices to also include Georgia and Xavier before choosing his hometown Cardinals.
Nickelberry averaged 24.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists as a junior last season in helping Northwood Temple Academy to the quarterfinals of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A championship, earning first team all-state honors.
“Josh was the first high school senior who committed to our coaching staff at the University of Louisville,” said Mack. “His belief in our vision for both him and the program spoke volumes. It energized the fan base, our coaching staff and his future 2019 teammates. As a player, Josh is an extremely athletic combo guard with dead-eye shooting ability. I believe he can be a prolific shooter at the college level. His athleticism and toughness will allow him to defend at a high level for us on the perimeter. Josh is a high energy player who competes with intensity every time he steps on the floor. I can’t wait to coach him.”
The first player to verbally commit to the Cardinals in this recruiting class, Nickelberry is ranked No. 81 nationally in the ESPN 100, No. 97 by 247Sports.com and is No. 115 by Rivals.com. He scored 44 points in an early season game this year, burying five three-pointers.
“First of all, Josh is a great young man,” said James Strong, Nickelberry’s high school coach at Northwood Temple. “He’s a phenomenal talent who can score at three levels and is a hard cover for any defender. Josh is great with his teammates, plays hard every play, and does all that I ask of him and more. He’s a great teammate, leader, hard worker and is very unselfish on and off the court. It’s a pleasure coaching him. He’s put in a lot of work after practice to improve his ball handling and putting up shots. He’s very self-motivated, with a true love and passion for the game without being pushed.”
Nickelberry began playing organized basketball as an eight-year-old and achieved his first dunk in the eighth grade. He played his eighth-grade and freshman seasons at Northwood Temple, played his sophomore year at Trinity Christian, and returned to Northwood Temple last year. He earned NCISAA 1A all-state honors as a sophomore at Trinity Christian when he averaged 18.0 points per game and reached double figures in all but three games in leading his team to the NCISAA 1-A championship game.
He participated with Game Elite Gold AAU team in Atlanta, driving five hours one way many weekends to practice and play with the squad.
Nickelberry’s father, Gerald, was a linebacker at Northern Illinois (1991-94), ranking sixth in career tackles and his seven career fumble recoveries is an NIU record. His mother, Jessie, was a track and volleyball athlete and is an Army veteran.
Nickelberry had also considered North Carolina, NC State, Michigan, Xavier and UConn before signing with the Cardinals.
Slazinski averaged 11.1 points and 5.2 rebounds last season in helping Huntington Prep to 21-7 record for the 2017-18 season.
“Quinn is undervalued,” said Mack. “He’s young for his class and his best days as a basketball player are ahead of him. People are going to wonder in a couple years where Louisville snagged this kid from. At nearly 6-9, Quinn has a guard’s feel for the game, but an old school power forward’s toughness. He’s scared of no one on the court. He plays to win every possession. He’s a classic love him if he’s on my team, hate him if he’s not type of competitor. Cardinal fans are going to love Quinn. Our plan is to redshirt Quinn so that he can catch up in age to his classmates and transition him to our system and the college game next year while preserving his four years of eligibility.”
Slazinski, who scored a single game high of 22 points last season against Tennessee Prep Academy, is ranked No. 209 by 247Sports.com and is No. 48 among power forwards by Rivals.com. He produced 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against Hargrave Military Academy early this season.
“Quinn is the ultimate competitor,” said Arkell Bruce, his prep school coach at Huntington Prep. “When he steps on the floor, he does everything he can to win. I look forward to watching him grow as a player at the next level. Quinn has been a pleasure to coach these past two seasons.”
His family moved from Michigan to Houston when he was in the sixth grade. He was a first team all-district selection as a sophomore at Westbury Christian School in Houston in helping his team win the Texas 5A championship for the 21 time in 26 years, scoring 23 points in the title game.
Slazinski averaged 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds last season for his AAU Virginia-based Boo Williams team.
Slazinski was an accomplished distance runner in high school, posting the 12th best two-mile time in school history at Westbury Christian. He was also a standout baseball player before focusing on basketball. His father played football at Grand Valley State.
Slazinski had also received offers from Cal, DePaul, Georgia Tech and Houston among others before selecting UofL for his collegiate career.
Williamson averaged 23.3 points, 9.7 rebounds as a junior last season in helping Rockwall to a 20-12 record, earning first team Texas Association of Basketball Coaches all-state honors. He scored 21 points as his team reached the area round.
“Sam is primed to be one of the better freshman in college basketball next season,” said Mack. “He has to get stronger and he has to adapt to the college game like all freshmen, but when he does, he has a chance to be special. As a big wing, Sam has a versatility to his game that makes him difficult to handle. He can post, he uses his size, he can knock it down from three and he has an ability to rebound at his position. Defensively he is smart, tough and a competitor. Sam possesses a hunger to be great. He won’t be outworked. When you’re smart to begin with and you work hard, you begin to separate yourself. Sam is doing that right now.”
Williamson is ranked No. 34 nationally by Rivals.com, No. 52 nationally in the ESPN 100 and is No. 45 by 247Sports.com. He totaled 35 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in an early season game this year against top-ranked Denton Guyer High School.
“Sam is a very smart player who has a high ceiling and a work ethic to be able to reach that potential,” said Quincy Williams, Williamson’s high school coach at Rockwall. “I’m extremely proud and blessed to have coached him these past few years.”
The Dallas Morning News all-metro selection and district player of the year had 20 points and 11 rebounds in a game that decided the district championship last season. Rockwall is ranked sixth among 6A schools in the state of Texas entering this season.
Williamson averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 20 games while shooting 45.8 percent from the field while playing with his Drive Nation AAU team.
Williamson had narrowed his choices to also include Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma before signing with Louisville.
Withers averaged 20 points, 10.1 rebounds and shot 43 percent from three-point range as a junior last season in helping North Mecklenberg High School in Huntersville, N.C. to a 27-2 record and a conference regular season and tournament championship, earning first team AP all-state honors. He will play his senior year at Cleveland (Ohio) Heights High School.
“Jae’Lyn is oozing with potential,” said Mack. “At nearly 6-9, he possesses a variety of skill and athleticism. He will get stronger in time and as he does, he will be an impact player on both ends of the floor. On the defensive end, he can sit in a stance and guard ball handlers and shooters. Around the basket, he has timing and length that can’t be taught. He can provide a lot of versatility for our team on the defensive end. On offense, Jae’Lyn can do a lot of things very well, including shooting the ball from distance. Jae’Lyn hasn’t even begun to scratch his potential as a basketball player.”
The 2018 Charlotte Observer 4A Metro Player of the Year and I-MECK conference player of the year, Withers is ranked No. 80 nationally by Rivals.com, No. 86 by 247Sports.com and is No. 89 in the ESPN 100. North Mecklenberg went 24-4 in 2017-18 and reached the NCHSAA 4A sectional final.
”Jae is a very versatile and high IQ basketball player who has the ability to score from all parts of the floor,” said Mike Cruz, Withers’ high school coach at Cleveland Heights. “He’s a knockdown shooter from the NBA line and with continued work, has an All-ACC type future in front of him.”
Withers averaged 10.6 points and 5.1 rebounds last summer with his AAU squad Team Loaded North Carolina.
His father, Curtis, was a three-time All-Conference USA forward at Charlotte (2002-06), where he is seventh in career scoring (1,750), third in career rebounding (1,042) and second in career double-doubles (46). One of only three players in school history with over 1,000 rebounds, he has played professional basketball in foreign countries over the last 12 years.
Withers chose to attend Louisville after also considering Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and Virginia among others.