More changes for Cards as Nickelberry departs

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- The offseason upheavel in the Louisville basketball program continued Thursday when the school announced that sophomore guard Josh Nickelberry is transferring.


Nickelberry, a native of Fayetteville, N.C., has put his name in the transfer portal and will have three seasons left at another school.


He was coach Chris Mack's first high school recruit when he took the UofL job in 2018.


"I want to thank Josh for his contributions to our program these past two years," Mack said in a statement. "He has been a terrific representative of our program and unfortunately has had some hard luck with injuries during his time. I understand and support his decision to get a fresh start in college basketball and wish him all the best moving forward."


Nickelberry was injured much of last season and played in just 24 games during his two years with the Cardinals, scoring 37 points. He was billed as a long-range shooter, but really didn't get a chance to prove it due to the injuries.


He had offseason knee surgery and missed the first five games this past season. He missed more time later with illness and a wrist injury.


Talking about Nickelberry's struggles during the season, sophomore guard David Johnson said, "Josh has been through a lot the last year and a half. He has had a few injuries that I am sure have been tough for him."


Nickelberry was part of a six-man recruiting class for 2019-20. With his and Aidan Igiehon's transfers, it is now down to four -- Johnson, Samuell Williamson, Jae'Lyn Withers and Quinn Slazinski.


"Thank you to Coach Mack, my teammates and all of Card Nation for these past two years," Nickelberry said in a statement. "Louisville will always have a special place in my heart and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for me."


Since the end of the season, UofL has lost two players, assistant coaches Dino Gaudio and Luke Murray, who were fired by Mack last month -- and head athletic trainer Fred Hina, who announced his retirement Tuesday.


UofL now has 12 scholarship players, leaving one opening. Dre Davis, Gabe Wiznitzer, Slazinski, Williamson and Withers are expected to return and the Cards have signed five newcomers in junior college guard El Ellis, Miami transfer forward Matt Cross, Marshall grad transfer guard Jarrod West, forward/center Roosevelt Wheeler and guard/forward Mike James, the latter two being high school recruits.


Senior center Malik Williams will also return without counting against the scholarship limit. Johnson, who is considered a potential NBA draft pick, and grad transfer guard Carlik Jones haven't announced a  decision on whether or not they will return to UofL.


HINA ENDING 20-YEAR RUN--Hina's retirement is effective at the end of June. He has served as head men's athletic trainer since 2001 and has also spent the last eight as Director of Sports Medicine, assisting Senior Director of Sports Medicine Matt Summers.


Prior to his hiring by former head coach Rick Pitino, Hina spent 15 years as an athletic trainer in the New York Mets organization, including the previous seven as the head trainer for the major league New York Mets. He is a 1987 graduate of Western Kentucky University, with a Master's from the University of Alabama.


"Congratulations to Fred on a spectacular career," Mack said in a statement. "We are certainly going to miss him on a daily basis. What he did for student-athletes and the men's basketball program cannot be understated. He is a die-hard Cardinal and has given every ounce of his being to this place. Our players will miss his care, his knowledge, but most importantly his friendship. Thanks to Fred for everything."

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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