Connect with us

Men's Basketball

Kentucky Leave/Stay Predictions As We Enter Player Meeting Week

Published

on

© Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

It has now been over a week since Kentucky’s heartbreaking loss to Kansas State, which has given time for each player to meet with their families and camps to think about their future. On Wednesday, John Calipari will sit down with each of them to help them make a decision.

As we enter ‘player meeting week’, decisions will start to be announced. With that said, let’s give the latest update and prediction on each player.

Near-Locks

There are a handful of players that practically had their decisions made before the start of this season. The one outlier is Sahvir Wheeler, who found himself in a smaller role this season before his injuries. He will look to transfer elsewhere, for a system that better fits him.

Advertisement

For Cason Wallace, the decision is easy, he is going to be a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft. As for Toppin and Tshiebwe, there is not much that they can do to improve their stock significantly by returning for another season.

Lance Ware is not the most talented player on the roster, but has flourished in his role at Kentucky and was even named a captain this past season. Last summer, Ware cited his love for Kentucky and Calipari as a reason not to transfer, even having the self-awareness to say, “not everybody can be the star.”

As for Adou Thiero, he came to Kentucky with the understanding that he would not get much playing time, but he actually saw the court in twenty games, playing an average of nearly 10 minutes per game. Based on the current roster construction Adou would likely be behind DJ Wagner and Rob Dillingham (there are rumors he may not make it campus) and share minutes with Reed Sheppard. So there may be a decision to be made there, but I expect him to be back.

  • Cason Wallace: Gone 100%
  • Sahvir Wheeler: Transfer, 100%
  • Oscar Tshiebwe: Gone, 95%
  • Jacob Toppin: Gone, 95%
  • Lance Ware: Stay, 95%
  • Adou Thiero: Stay, 80%

Difficult Decisions

Chris Livingston

Coming to Kentucky, Livingston had a first-round NBA Draft grade and expected himself to be a one-and-done player, as did those around him. This also included LeBron James-owned sports agency, Klutch Sports, which represents Livingston.

Hurt by consistency early, Livingston worked his way into being one of Kentucky’s key players at the end of the season. Over the final 13 games of this past season, Livingston played more than 32 minutes per game, contributing 7.9 points and 6.5 rebounds on 55 percent shooting.

Advertisement

With an offseason to improve, most importantly his jump shot, he could give himself an opportunity to himself back into the first round with a return. Yet, that may not happen.

As said before, those around Livingston wanted a short trip to the NBA. While currently not projected, given his potential and NBA connections, he would likely be a second-round draft pick. For those reasons, I expect him to put his name in the NBA Draft while retaining his eligibility, but ultimately keep it there.

Prediction: Go through NBA Draft process, Stay in Draft

Confidence Level: Medium, 60%

Advertisement

Antonio Reeves

Following the Kansas State game, Antonio Reeves told me “I’d love to be back. I love the school. I love the fans. I love everybody here.” That decision will come down to his role and NIL money.

It is reported that Reeves made six figures from NIL this past season in Lexington, so more opportunities should be there next season. As the roster is constructed, shooting is the biggest weakness. Therefore a top 15-shooter in program history (39.8%, 14th in all-time percentage) should be welcomed back with open arms.

Reeves will and should go through the NBA Draft process to receive feedback, but I fully expect him to be back.

Prediction: Go through NBA Draft process, Return to Kentucky.

Advertisement

Confidence Level: High, 80%

Ugonna Onyenso

After the loss to Kansas State, I was able to interview Ugonna Onyenso, and he immediately talked about stepping in as a leader and accomplishing things that this team couldn’t. Yet, there is a possibility that may not happen.

If this decision was completely up to Oneyenso, he would be back at Kentucky for another season. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Being brought to the United States from Nigeria, this is a different situation than most players.

While this isn’t a Shaedon Sharpe situation where Oneysno could go to the draft as a Top 10 pick, there are people around him that are open to exploring possibilities outside of Kentucky, including some Big East programs. With that said, I don’t see another program that can offer what Kentucky can, which includes a large role and good NIL opportunities.

Advertisement

Prediction: Return to Kentucky.

Confidence Level: Medium, 65%

Daimion Collins

Daimion Collins’ situation is unlike any other, as it has little to do with basketball. Prior to the season, Daimion’s father, Ben Collins, passed away unexpectedly. This impacted the entire family and hurt Daimion’s progression early this season, so much so, that Calipari said he lost sixteen pounds from his already thin frame.

Damion’s father did want his son to stay the process at Kentucky, even if it took all four seasons. However, it is family over everything for Collins, which is part of the reason why his father lived in Lexington.

Advertisement

With that said, I expect Daimion to transfer to a school closer to home, with full support from the Kentucky program. Collins did have Texas and Texas Tech as finalists when he committed to Kentucky in 2021, but with the coaching changes since, I don’t expect those schools to be in play. Instead, look at SMU and Houston.

Prediction: Transfer

Confidence Level: Medium, 70%

CJ Fredrick

CJ Fredrick loves the game of basketball, but after enduring five seasons of college basketball, without one full healthy season, he may hang it up. Unlike other players on this list, it is retirement or return for Fredrick, as he will not decide to transfer or play professionally.

Advertisement

Following the Kansas State game, Fredrick was very emotional when talking about what could be his last game, saying he has “no idea” what he will decide.

Fredrick is someone I have not heard much about, but given that he is getting married this summer and all that he had endured in his career, I don’t expect him to return to Kentucky for another season.

Prediction: Retire

Confidence Level: Low, 35%

Advertisement

Men's Basketball

Rick Pitino Endorses Mark Pope, “He Will Lead The Kentucky Wildcats To Another Championship”

Published

on

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports/ Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The captain of Rick Pitino’s 1996 “Untouchables”, Mark Pope, is “coming home” to lead the Kentucky Wildcats as the program’s next head coach, officially announced on Friday. While there has been some criticism of the hire, Pitino says he “couldn’t be any prouder to see Mark Pope lead the Kentucky Wildcats.”

While Pope has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in two appearances, Pitino points out that several top coaches had their trials early in their careers. It took Jay Wright 11 seasons to win his first NCAA Tournament, and Billy Donovan was hired at Florida without an NCAA Tournament appearance. However, he heralds Pope as one of the “premier young coaches” in college basketball.

“Offensively, no one does it better,” Pitino said. “The way his teams move. The way his teams shoot the three. The ball movement. It’s outstanding.”

Advertisement

It’s just the X’s and O’s though, Pitino “guarantees” that Pope loves and understands the program as well as anyone. “I can guarantee to you one thing, that nobody epitomizes the name on the front of the jersey more than Mark Pope.”

“Mark Pope will go on to greatness. You can put it down,” Pitino said. “He will do you proud. “He will lead the Kentucky Wildcats to another championship”

If his endorsement isn’t enough, Rick Pitino says he will “write the check himself” for NIL to help Pope be successful.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Men's Basketball

Mark Pope Releases Statement As He Is Announced As Kentucky Basketball Coach

Published

on

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Per UK Athletics

When his alma mater came calling, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home.

Pope, a captain of the University of Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky’s storied men’s basketball program, announced Friday.

Advertisement

“The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball,” Pope said. “It’s the definition of a blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation every year. Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this University and the people of the Commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul.”

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I’m proud to be your next head coach and I can’t wait to do this together!”

Pope is a nine-year head coaching veteran with stops at BYU and Utah Valley, amassing a 187-108 career record. His squads won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons and he has made six postseason appearances.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Men's Basketball

REPORT: Mark Pope Set Sign Five-Year Deal to Become Next Kentucky Basketball Coach

Published

on

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has found their guy. Former Wildcat and NCAA Champion, Mark Pope, is now expected to be named the next Kentucky basketball coach on a five-year contract worth $5.5 million annually, first reported by CBS Sports. For perspective, based on last season’s salaries, that is more than Dan Hurley (UConn), Scott Drew (Baylor), and Nate Oats (Alabama).

Pope comes to Kentucky with nine seasons of head coaching experience, after serving as an assistant for six seasons, from 2009-2015. In 2015, he was hired by Utah Valley where he coached for four seasons. In 2019, Pope was hired at BYU where he has taken them to two NCAA Tournaments, but has been upset by a double-digit seed in both appearances.

Pope has proven himself as a good X-and-O coach in his nine-year career, running one of the most innovative offenses in the country, but recruiting will be a real test as he has never signed a four-star recruit. Who he hires on to his staff and collecting NIL support will be critical.

Advertisement

The move has been met with much fan criticism, as fans have been quick to point out that Pope has never won a conference title or an NCAA Tournament game. However, Mitch Barnhart is confident in the move, with some reporting that he is “excited” with the hire.

Just three days into the coaching search, this is an interesting hire with several big names like Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl potentially available. Barnhart made the decision not to wait for Donovan, who is currently coaching the Chicago Bulls, and Pearl was not considered due to his “baggage”.

A new era of Kentucky basketball has begun.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending