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CBS Releases Controversial Starting Lineup and Rotation for Kentucky Basketball

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John Calipari coaching the Kentucky Wildcats at GLOBL JAM in Canada.
UK Athletics

Recently, CBS Sports has been releasing their lineup and rotation projections ahead of the 2023-24 college basketball season. On Thursday, writer David Cobb released his projected starting lineup for the Kentucky Wildcats, and to say the least, they are much different than what one would expect.

Here is what Cobb thinks the lineup will look like:

Starting Lineup

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  • 1: DJ Wagner
  • 2: Adou Thiero
  • 3: Antonio Reeves
  • 4: Justin Edwards
  • 5: Tre Mitchell

Bench

  • Reed Sheppard
  • Aaron Bradshaw
  • Rob Dillingham
  • Ugonna Onyenso

Depth (“unlikely to crack the rotation”)

  • Jordan Burks
  • Joey Hart
  • Zvonimir Ivisic

There are a lot of interesting things to take away from Cobb’s prediction, like Adou Thiero starting at the two, or Zvonimir Ivisic being relegated to the practice squad.

Thiero being the starting shooting guard is the biggest question. Coming to Kentucky at 6’6, 200 pounds, Thiero was considered a combo guard coming out of high school. Now 6-8, 220 pounds, Thiero still has those guard skills but is much more of a wing/forward. After all, Thiero shined brightest during GLOBL JAM when he got significant minutes playing the four spot. His athleticism and defensive prowess were best seen when he was matched up against other wings.

Cobb’s lineup also leaves little wing depth on the bench. That being said, it makes more sense to have Thiero come off the bench behind the likes of Justin Edwards or Antonio Reeves.

The next thing to be addressed is how Cobb has Zvonimir Ivisic as his last player listed on the rotation. According to Cobb, the “Croatian Unicorn” will be “a good practice player” who will be “useful in practice”. He’s not wrong, but as a player that’s 7’2 with his fluidity, he is going to find a way into the rotation.

Ivisic will battle with Ugonna Onyenso for minutes, playing behind Tre Mitchell and Aaron Bradshaw. His size is enough for him to be valuable in SEC play, but his perimeter skills are what set him apart.

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One also might question why Reed Sheppard is ahead of Rob Dillingham in the rotation, or why Aaron Bradshaw isn’t starting. All of these questions are valid, but they prove a crucial point.

With a talented freshman class, key returning players, and late additions from the transfer portal and overseas, the 2023-2024 Kentucky Wildcats have depth and versatility. And as seen with CBS Sports’ predicted lineup, there are a lot of options.

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Men's Basketball

Last Season’s Players Say They Will Continue to Support Kentucky Following Calipari’s Departure, “I’ll Come Back, For Sure”

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Former Calipari era players say they will continue to support Kentucky following Calipari's departure.
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Towards the end of his fifteen season tenure at Kentucky, many fans had mixed feelings about John Calipari. However, his players never wavered in voicing their appreciation and love for him as their coach, and still do.

“To me, he’s the best coach in the world,” Reed Sheppard said at the NBA Draft Combine last week. Sheppard, an in-state product and the son of two former UK stars, has his own pre-existing ties to Kentucky basketball. What about the other players, the ones who came to Lexington from across the country to play for Calipari?

Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader asked three players from last year’s roster, Rob Dilligham, Antonio Reeves, and Justin Edwards. It should come as no suprise that they would support Calipari as heads to Arkansas, but they affirm they will continue to support Kentucky. In the end, that is the university that they represented and the fanbase they were supported by.

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“I’ll go to the game where they play each other. That would be even, right?” Dillingham said with a laugh, when asked if he would attend any Kentucky or Arkansas games in the near future. “I love Coach Cal. I appreciate him for the opportunity. And you see him — he’s put so many players in the NBA. He’s done a great thing at Kentucky.”

As for where Dillingham will return, it will be Lexington not Fayetteville.

“I’ll come back, for sure, to Kentucky. Obviously, they protected me,” Dillingham said. “It wasn’t just (Calipari). It was the fans. It was the teachers. Everybody there. I love Mitch Barnhart, the Athletic Director. I love all of them. So I really liked the UK experience, because they helped me as a whole, and they treated me like family.”

Reeves, who will go down as John Calipari’s last All-American at Kentucky, makes the point that he played for Calipari and Kentucky, and will support both.

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“I’d say both. I played for him. So, of course, I’m gonna cheer for him at Arkansas. Why not?” Reeves said. “The fans at Kentucky — I definitely can’t leave them behind. So I definitely gotta go back and just show them love whenever I get a chance. And I came from Kentucky. So I can’t just leave that behind.”

Edwards is one of the few that has had the opportunity to talk to Coach Pope since he took over at Kentucky.

“I’ve talked to Mark Pope. He was here (Draft Combine) today,” Edwards said, “I dapped him up. He told me if I was ever in town and needed a gym that I was always welcome to use the Craft Center. And Coach Cal told us the same: any alum or players that he had (at Kentucky), if they want to come work out, they can always use the gym.”

“Those guys are two genuine guys. You can tell that they’re caring people.”

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Edwards’ quote summarizes it greatly. Both are good people and coaches that care about the program.

At the end of the day, Calipari did a lot of good for Kentucky Basketball and will be honored for it in the future. However it was time for a change, or as Calipari said in his departure video, “a new voice”. That new voice is Mark Pope, who is making an effort to bridge all the generations of Kentucky Basketball.

John Wall, arguably the face of the Calipari era, was seen meeting Pope for the the first time this past weekend at a Nike EYBL event in Indianapolis.

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BB Recruiting

Top Transfer Portal Prospect Chaz Lanier to Visit Kentucky on Monday

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One of the best scorers in the transfer portal, North Florida transfer Chaz Lanier will visit Kentucky.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Pope has filled 11 of 13 scholarship spots on his first Kentucky roster. With just two spots remaining, he is targeting two of the top scorers in the portal, Jaxson Robinson, who played for him last season at BYU, and North Florida transfer Chaz Lanier.

The latter will arrive in Lexington on Sunday night for a visit, first reported by 247Sports, and will visit through Monday. Lanier will be coming off a weekend visit to BYU and is expected to schedule a visit to his home state school of Tennessee soon.

Just a few weeks ago, Lanier, a Nashville native and former Mr. Tennessee basketball finalist, was believed to be a Tennessee lock. After multiple conversations with the Kentucky staff, they are believed to be the leader. This visit is a big opportunity to lock up that recruitment.

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Lanier is a 6-4 four-guard from North Florida University, averaged 19.7 points per game with 4.8 assists, shooting an efficient 51% field goal percentage and 44% from 3-point range last season. This play earned him first-team all-conference honors in the A-SUN.

This would be a massive addition for Mark Pope and Kentucky, as Linear was viewed as one of the best scorers and shooters in all of college basketball last season. According to 247Sports, Lanier is the 11th-ranked transfer in the portal, while ESPN has him 42nd.

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BB Recruiting

Dayton Transfer, Elite Shooter Koby Brea Commits to Kentucky

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Dayton Flyers transfer guard Koby Brea commits to play for Mark Pope and the Kentucky Wildcats. One of the best shooters in the country.
Dayton Athletics

After getting several elite defensive pieces last week, the Kentucky Wildcats have added one the best shooters in the country to the roster, Dayton Transfer Koby Brea, he announced on social media.

Brea was originally believed to be down to Duke and UConn entering last weekend, but in the game of recruiting, things can change quickly.

Duke pulled out of the race and their visit was cancelled, putting Kentucky back in contention and taking the place of that visit. While the Huskies added another transfer guard Aidan Mahaney on Monday, just after Brea’s visit ended on Sunday, resulting in them pulling out of the race. When Brea arrived in Lexington on Monday night, the Wildcats were the clear leader and they locked it down.

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Brea is ranked as the 40th-best transfer on ESPN, the 100th-best transfer on 247Sports, and according to EvanMiya, which has more of an analytical look at things, Brea is the 79th-best transfer.

What kind of person and player is Kentucky getting in Brea? Let’s dive into his background and game.

Background

Coming out of Monsignor Scanlan High School in Bronx, New York, Brea was an unranked recruit. While he wasn’t a player exploding on the Grassroots scene, both of his parents come from the Dominican Republic, making him eligible to represent the Dominican National Team in the U-17 FIBA Centrobasket Championships. There he got to play against some of the best talent in the world. Ultimately, Brea committed to Dayton over a small list of other schools such as Massachusetts, Manhattan, Iona, and Robert Morris.

As a freshman, Brea played in 16 games for Dayton, but missed much of the preseason and all of the non-conference schedule due to an injury. He never really got comfortable and because of this received a redshirt.

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As a redshirt freshman, Brea had a breakout season earning A-10 Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player awards, notably leading the team in three-pointers made, attempts, and percentage (42%).

After learning he had stress fractures in both tibias, Brea saw his play drop in the 2022-23 season. At that point, surgery had to be completed. “I had to learn how to walk again slowly,” Brea told the Dayton Daily News.

Fully healed in 2023-24, Brea had the best season of his college career. Playing the sixth-man role he became so comfortable in, Brea averaged career highs in points (11.1 ppg), rebounds (3.8 rpg), field goal percentage (51.2%), and three-point percentage (49.8%). In doing so, he won his second Sixth Man of the Year award and helped lead Dayton to a Top 25 ranking and their first NCAA Tournament win appearance since 2015.

Scouting Report

49.8 percent from three last season. That is the statistic that is going to jump off the page. The fifth-best three-point percentage in the country, Brea did so on 201 attempts, making him one of the most efficient shooters in the country. That number isn’t an outlier as he shot 42.3 percent in 2022-23, his only other season he did not miss time due to injuries.

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That shooting ability isn’t just limited to catch-and-shoot opportunities as he is excellent at shooting off movement, whether that is coming off screens or creating for himself. To have the shooting efficiency and versatility he does, in a 6-6 frame, is very rare.

No player comes without weakness though. Brea’s two biggest are his unproven ability to get to the rim and his defense.

Shooting as well as he does, Brea doesn’t look to go inside often, with only nine percent of his attempts coming at the rim. At 6-6, he has the size, but he lacks some athleticism and quickness to get by more athletic defenders. That also hurts him on the defensive end, ranking 135th in EvanMiya’s defensive rating, amongst all transfers. Interestingly, Kentucky transfer target Jaxon Robinson is just below him at 136th.

In Brea, Kentucky is getting a proven shooter with a good frame and four years of college experience.

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Take a look at the newest Wildcat below.

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

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