What Mylik Wilson's entry into NCAA transfer portal means to Ragin' Cajuns basketball

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Mylik Wilson’s move to the NCAA transfer portal leaves the UL basketball team with a statistical void.

But a pickup by the Ragin’ Cajuns may more than mitigate the anticipated departure of Wilson, a sophomore guard from Rayville High who was the Sun Belt Conference’s 2019-20 Freshman of the Year.

Sparingly used big man Chris Spenkuch also is in the portal and expected to leave.

Wilson's decision came after UL announced the signing of guard Greg Williams Jr., a Lafayette Christian Academy product who averaged 5.6 points over three seasons – including 9.5 last season – at St. John’s.

Players in the transfer portal aren’t obligated to leave their current program, but indications are that Wilson is done at UL.

The timing may be coincidental, but the swap isn’t.

Williams should assume the spot left vacant by Wilson, who started all 26 games for UL (17-9) last season. He was the starter in  all but six games for St. John’s.

Williams has the potential to take on more of a feature role with the Cajuns than he did with the Red Storm, which last season had both Big East scoring leader Julian Champagnie and Big East Freshman of the Year Posh Alexander.

Walk-on:Why STM guard Carter Domingue spurned scholarship offers for UL

Mylik Wilson drives the ball down the court as the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns take on the UT Arlington Mavericks in the Cajundome Monday, Feb. 22, 2021.

Swap helps Cedric Russell

Moreover, Williams’ presence in the UL backcourt could compliment quite nicely – and perhaps even elevate – senior guard Cedric Russell’s play.

Russell was a 2020-21 first team All-Sun Belt pick.

Neither Russell nor senior starting power forward Dou Gueye has formally announced if they will return with the extra season of NCAA eligibility granted all athletes because of COVID-19, but – at least for now – it seems likelier than not that Russell stays.

Wilson averaged 12.9 points per game last season, second only to Russell’s 17.2.

Playing alongside Williams, Russell could find himself with even more room to work next season. Opponents would have to pay more defensive attention to Williams than Wilson, who struggled from the outside and had issues finishing at times.

That would benefit Russell, a potential preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year should he return.

Williams’ presence also would allow UL to use him at the point, Russell to play primarily at the 2 and Brayan Au (who’s coming off two knee surgeries) to shift from the point to the 3.

Related:With Brayan Au out for the season, who handles the point for the Cajuns?

For subscribers:UL's Cedric Russell left Alexandria Peabody with mom's wise words

Comparison game

The Cajuns have other options at the 3, Durey Cadwell (injured and out all last season) and Kobe Julien (injured most of the last season) among them. Julien also can slide to power forward.

Having Williams at the point, in other words, allows others to play their natural positions.

Greg Williams Jr. (4), who is transferring to UL, drives to the basket for St. John's during a Jan. 6, 2021, game at at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

After Au was injured last season, both Wilson and Russell had to initiate the offense and handle the ball more – even though neither’s a pure point.

Williams’ skill set and basketball IQ allow him play either guard spot naturally.

At 6-foot-3 and 200, he’s as tall as Wilson but carries 20-to-25 more pounds – which should help him more easily get to the basket.

Wins:Cajuns coach Bob Marlin passes Kermit Davis of Ole Miss for Sun Belt lead

Williams also is a much better 3-point shooter, hitting a team-high 44.8% (26-of-58) from behind the arc last season while Wilson made 24.5% (13-of-52).

Wilson did fill out the stat sheet better, averaging more rebounds (5.5 to 2.1), assists (3.2 to 2.1) and steals (2.0 to 1.3) than Williams.

But against Sun Belt competition as opposed to Big East competition, and with more minutes than the 24.8 he averaged at St. John’s last season, Williams’ numbers in most categories should rise.

All that being the case, the Cajuns could be right in feeling that – even though it may not look like it on paper – they traded up.