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The Morning After: Four Things To Know after Kentucky vs. Duquesne

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UK Athletics

In game two of what Cats fans hope will be a long season ahead, Kentucky hosted the Duquesne Dukes at Rupp Arena on Friday Night.

The Wildcats were still without Damion Collins and Oscar Tshiebwe on Friday night, but Sahvir Wheeler did make a return to the court, making his impact felt.

To start, the Wildcats were a little sluggish as they didn’t hit double-digits until the 13-minute mark of the first half. However, Sahvir Wheeler check in off the bench and dished three straight assists, and hit a layup to ignite the Wildcat offense. This gave Kentucky some momentum and allowed them to create separation and enter halftime with a 38-22 lead.

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Coming out of the half, Duquesne went on a quick 7-0 run that cut the lead to single digits. While Kentucky made some runs of their own, they had just an 11-point lead with just 11 minutes to go. Finally, Fredrick-Reeves-Toppin went on a 12-2 run themselves and Kentucky never looked back.

To summarize, the Wildcats were dominant in almost every asset, coming out of Rupp Arena with a 77-52 win, covering their 19-point spread.

Let’s talk about it.

Sahvir Wheeler shows his impact in return

For what was Sahvir Wheeler’s season opener, he looked to have already found his groove. Prior to the game, it was reported that Wheeler would only see 10-15 minutes of action, but ended up playing 27 minutes, and did plenty of good.

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Coming off the bench, the senior guard already had 4 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds through his first five minutes of action. Wheeler finished with a double-double scoring 11 points and adding 11 assists and 2 steals.

Looking more in-depth, Wheeler went 1-2 from the three-point line and limited his turnovers, only having 2 for his 27 minutes of play.

While some fans are calling for Cason Wallace to be the starting point guard, Wheeler proved his value once again. The Bob Cousy award finalist and SEC assist leader was +32 on the night, with Antonio Reeves in second at +20.

Bench impact

The biggest story of the Kentucky offense against Duquesne was the bench production.

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The starting five consisted of the same live last game, Wallace-Fredrick-Reeves-Livingston-Toppin. Off the bench, Onyenso-Reeves-Wheeler combined for 38 points, nearly half of Kentucky’s 77 points.

While Wheeler will most likely be starting for the remainder of the season, Reeves and Onyenso will be two of the biggest contributors off the bench and the best was seen from both on Friday night.

The duo affected the game on both ends. On offense, they combined for a total of 27 points on an efficient 56 percent from the field, as well as two of the highest offensive ratings. On the other end, the pair combined for four blocks and also had two of the highest defensive ratings.

The bench contribution should improve even more with the return of Collins, and when Livingston is moved back.

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Onyenso continues to impress

Ugonna Onyenso should be a high school senior this year, but instead, he reclassified and is making an impact for the Kentucky Wildcats.

In the absence of Oscar Tshiebwe, the freshman has stepped up in both regular season games in a big way. Through the exhibitions and the first two regular season games, Onyenso has proven that he is an elite rim protector and can rebound well, but it is clear his offense is a bit behind.

On Friday night, Onyenso had an impressive 10 rebounds and three blocks, but also scored 9 points. Wheeler set the freshman big up with a few baskets, but Onyenso also showed the ability to create opportunities for himself.

In the freshman’s first two games he is averaging just under 20 minutes per game, but is making use of his time on the floor, floating with a double-double; averaging 7.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks.

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When a player is playing with that level of efficiency, it is going to be hard to keep him off the floor.

Guard-play

The guard play for the Cats had another impressive outing.

All four guards – Fredrick, Reeves, Wallace, and Wheeler – scored at least 8 points for the Wildcats, and shot a combined 55 percent from the field. Yet they performed even better from the perimeter.

As a team, the Cats shot 11-19 (58%) from 3-point range. Of course, CJ Fredrick and Antonio Reeves accounted for eight of the threes, but Wallace and Wheeler both hit one apiece as well.

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It is early, but Fredrick and Reeves are both shooting over fifty percent from three on thirty combined attempts. The duo looks to be among the purest shooters in the Cal era, and could put themselves in the program record books.

What may be the most impressive stat, Kentucky had 22 assists on 28 made field goals, giving them a 79 percent assist percentage. For reference, East Carolina had the highest assist percentage in the country last season at 67.2 percent.

Right now, it seems that in nearly any rotation Calipari draws up, the guards seem to play well with one another and it will interesting to see how that develops over the course of the season.


Through two games, the Cats have performed very well despite not being at full strength. However, it is expected for Collins and Tshiebwe to make their season debut against Michigan State on Tuesday night.

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With that said, Kentucky seems to be playing well and prepared regardless of lineup.

Men's Basketball

Kentucky Basketball Hiring Top Assistant Coach Alvin Brooks III from Baylor

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Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky may not have been able to pull Scott Drew away from Baylor, but they were able to pull Alvin Brooks III, one of the best assistant coaches in the country. First reported by CBS Sports on Wednesday morning, Brooks has accepted an associate head coach position at Kentucky, the same role in which he had at Baylor.

Brooks comes to Kentucky with a great reputation as a recruiter, helping Baylor bring in some elite talent over the last couple of seasons, most notably, McDonald’s All-Americans VJ Edgecombe (2024), Ja’Kobe Walter (2023), and Keyonte George (2022).

Just 44 years old, Brooks has two decades of coaching experience. Before his time at Baylor he also had stops at Kansas State (2012-16), Sam Houston State (2010-12), Bradley (2007-10), Midland (2006-07), and Arkansas-Fort Smith (2004-06).

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Brooks spoke with Kentucky Insider earlier this month about Kentucky’s hire of Mark Pope, as someone who competed against him at BYU. He spoke highly of the hire, specifically of his Xs and Os, and saw “no negatives”.

Interestingly, he will not be the first Alvin Brooks to be a part of the Kentucky Basketball program as his father was the Director of Operations from 2007-09 under Billy Gillispie. Brooks joins an assembled staff of Cody Fueger, Jason Hart, and Mark Fox, leaving just one assistant spot remaining which likely won’t come soon.

That said, the concern with Pope was his recruiting ability. With Hart and now Brooks, he has addressed that concern and has added two of the best recruiters in the country.

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BB Recruiting

Transfer Amari Williams Commits to Kentucky

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Drexel transfer Amari Williams has committed to play for the Kentucky Wildcats. Becomes first transfer commitment under Mark Pope.
Graphic via ClutchPoints

Amari Williams has made his decision. He has committed to the Wildcats, first reported by Joe Tipton of On3.

Williams’ decision comes after visiting Lexington this past weekend. On all accounts and given his commitment, all things went well, even taking a visit to Keeneland with new head coach Mark Pope.

Originally from Nottingham, England, Williams has played the last four years at Drexel. He has career averages of 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks.

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From his sophomore season forward, Williams has been named to the All-Coastal Athletic Association Team three times and has won three straight CAA Defensive Player of the Year Awards.

The 6-foot-10, 265-pound forward is a physical big. On the offensive end, he scores most of his points at the rim, many of which come in transition or off offensive rebounds, but he is also comfortable extending to the elbow. He is a better passer than one would expect as well, with an 18% assist rate.

As his Defensive Player of the Year awards suggest, Williams makes his biggest impact on the defensive side of the ball. With a 7-foot-5 wingspan, he blocks plenty of shots (8.5% block rate) and alters many more. His physical size and length help him rebound the ball well.

Both were areas Kentucky lacked in last season.

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If you’re an analytical guy, Williams has been a top-20 player in player efficiency ratings the previous two seasons, with a 28.5 PER each season.

For reference, Kentucky’s most efficient players last season, Reed Sheppard and Antonio Reeves, both had a PER of 23.6.

Evan Miya, one of the best analytics gurus in college hoops, has Williams ranked 14th overall in DBPR for next season, which measures the defensive value a player brings to his team when he is on the court. So Kentucky just landed one of the best defensive transfers in America.

With his commitment, Williams becomes Kentucky’s first transfer under Mark Pope and just the second commitment overall, joining Collin Chandler, a 4-star recruit of the 2022 class returning from a mission trip this summer.

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It’s worth noting that he played alongside fellow Kentucky target and Utah State transfer Great Osobor in England. Could the two join forces in Lexington as Kentucky’s frontcourt?

Check out some highlights of the newest Cat in action!

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What Transfers Has Mark Pope Reached Out To?

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New Kentucky head coach Mark Pope has already started to put in work on the recruiting trail and transfer portal in his first couple of days.
IMAGN/USA Today Pictures

New Kentucky head coach Mark Pope has been in Lexington for only a couple of days, but he has already started putting in work on the recruiting trail, especially in the transfer portal. Kentucky is expected to have a much older team this upcoming season, with only one remaining signee in their recruiting class, Travis Perry.

On his first radio show on Monday, Pope said he is searching for great players with “epic talent”, but also players that fit. “It’s not about going out and getting the most raw talent, it’s getting the pieces to form a team that can be dangerous.”

Just a few days into his tenure, here is a list of who Pope has contacted thus far.

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Koby Brea – Guard, Dayton

Physicals: 6-6, 205 lbs
Stats: 11.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 51.6% FG, 49.8% 3P
Ranking: 67th (Evan Miya), Not yet listed (247Sports)

One of the best shooters in college basketball last season, Brea shot almost 50% from three. What is even more impressive is that he did so on high volume, averaging more than six three-pointers per game. Also in various ways, spot-ups, off screens, in transition. While his shooting is his clear strength, he was also efficient around the rim, shooting 65 percent.

An elite shooter like Brea would strive in Pope’s five-out offensive system.

Otega Oweh – Guard, Oklahoma

Physicals: 6-5, 215 lbs
Stats: 11.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 49.3% FG, 37.7% 3P
Ranking: 32nd (Evan Miya), 21st (247Sports)

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A strong and athletic wing, Oweh is one of the best two-way players in the portal. He is at his best when attacking the basket, but has significantly improved his shooting. After making just 1 of 4 three attempts his freshman season, he was 20-53 (37.7%) in his sophomore campaign. On the defensive end, Oweh’s size and athleticism allow him to be effective on and off the ball.

With his ball handling and attacking ability, Oweh would have enough space to create for himself and others, and has enough shooting to keep defenses honest.

Jeremy Roach – Guard, Duke

Physicals: 6-2, 180 lbs
Stats: 14.0 PPG, 3.3 APG, 46.8% FG, 42.9% 3P
Ranking: 20th (Evan Miya), not yet listed (247Sports)

One of the best guards to enter the portal, Jeremy Roach has been a four-year starter for Duke and is looking for a change of scenery for his last season of eligibility. With a solid frame, Roach is considered a true point guard with a good feel for operating the offense.

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While his playmaking has long been a strength, he has improved his scoring averages and three-pointing year after year, averaging 14.0 points on shooting 42.9 percent from deep this last season.

Kentucky is reported to be amongst the leaders for Roach, along with Arkansas (Calipari) and St. John’s (Pitino). Oh, the drama.

Cade Tyson – Guard, Belmont

Physicals: 6-7, 205 lbs
Stats: 16.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 49.3% FG, 46.5% 3P
Ranking: 74th (Evan Miya), 20th (247Sports)

Tyson was the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year last season and Second Team All-Conference this season after averaging 16.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. He did that on 46.5% shooting from three.

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Tyson is one of the most sought-after players in the portal due to his efficient shooting. WHile Kentucky has thrown their hat into the ring under Calipari, and now Pope, this looks to be a race between Tennessee and North Carolina.

Great Osobor – Forward, Utah State

Physicals: 6-8, 250 lbs
Stats: 17.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 57.7% FG
Ranking: 41st (Evan Miya), 7th (247Sports)

Nearly averaging a double-double this past season for Utah State, earning him Mountain West Player of the Year and All-American honorable mention honors, Osobor is one of the most sought-after transfer bigs in the country.

Similar to Oscar Tshiebe, Osobor may not have the height, but he has a strong build and is a tenacious rebounder. Pope hopes his connections in Utah can bring him to Lexington.

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Brendan Hausen – Guard, Villanova

Physicals: 6-4, 205 lbs
Stats: 6.2 PPG, 38.1% 3P
Ranking: 163rd (Evan Miya), 79th (247Sports)

Mark Pope is taskedd with filling out a full roster and he could add an excellent supporting piece in Hausen. Playing the past two seasons for Villanova, Hausen came of the bench scoring just 4.7 points, but on 39.5 percent shooting.

Jakobe Coles – Forward, TCU

Physicals: 6-8, 215 lbs
Stats: 10.0, 3.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 49.0% FG, 42.2% 3P
Ranking: 46th (Evan Miya), 198th (247Sports)

Coles led his team in three-point percentage at 42.2%. Although it wasn’t a high volume of threes, the numbers are still there. He is a very physical big man. Averaged 20 minutes per game, with some solid contributions.

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The big man has heard from Kentucky, SMU (who he recently visited), Auburn, Grand Canyon, and Mississippi State the most among the others who have reached out.

Aidan Mahaney – Guard, Saint Mary’s

Physicals: 6-3, 180 lbs
Stats: 13.9 PPG, 2.6 APG, 38.6% FG, 35.5% 3P
Ranking: 81st (Evan Miya), 14th (247Sports)

One of the best guards in the portal. As a lead guard dor Saint Mary’s, he displayed a good sense of playing under control, setting himself up and others. That said, his numbers were rather inefficient as the primary scoring option for the Gaels and shooting more than half of his shots from three.

Javon Small – Guard, Oklahoma State

Physicals: 6-3, 195 lbs
Stats: 15.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.1 APG, 44.1% FG, 37.4% 3P
Ranking: 133rd (Evan Miya), 8th (247Sports)

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Small has proven himself as one of the best playmakers in college basketball, at the mid major level at East Carolina, and last season in the Big 12 for Oklahoma State, being in the top ten in both scoring and assists per game.

Small is looking for significant NIL money, and Kentucky may be willing to give him that.

Kris Parker – Guard, Alabama

Physicals: 6-9, 195 lbs
Stats: N/A
Ranking: Not yet listed

Parker was a four-star recruit going into Alabama last season, but redshirted. Looking back at his high school career, Parker averaged 24.8 points, 14.2 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 2.4 blocks per game during his senior year at Crossroad Academy.

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Andrej Stojakovic – Forward, Stanford

Physicals: 6-7, 190 lbs
Stats: 7.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 0.9 APG, 40.9% FG, 32.7% 3P
Ranking: 165th (Evan Miya), 38th (247Sports)

Stojakovic is the son of former NBA All-Star, Peja Stojakovic. A familiar name for Kentucky fans from his high school recruitment. Stojakovic is a terrific shooter, and a top-25 recruit in the 2023 class.

He will be taking a visit to California this weekend.

David Coit – Guard, Northern Illinois

Physicals: 5-11, 175 lbs
Stats: 20.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 40.7% FG, 33.7% FG
Ranking: 369th (Evan Miya), 294th (247Sports)

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Coit is one of top scorers in the nation from this past season. A very high-volume scorer and shooter, Coit earned some All-MAC honors in his time at NIU. He is an interesting option with new Kentucky head coach Mark Pope and his offensive philosophy.

A really good scorer, and has a long list of suitors.

Baba Miller – Forward, Florida State

Physicals: 6-11, 204 lbs
Stats: 7.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 44.9% FG, 29.3% 3P
Ranking: 113th (Evan Miya), 97th (247Sports)

Originally from Spain, Miller had a tough freshman campaign at Florida State but regained form as a sophomore. Miller was a long time guard until he hit a big growth spurt, going from 6-2 to 6-11, but retaining his guard skills. A big with perimeter skills in Pope’s “modern” five-out offense. That’s a good fit.

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Aly Khalifa – Forward, BYU

Physicals: 6-11, 270 lbs
Stats: 5.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.0 APG, 38.6% FG, 31.5% 3P
Ranking: 12th (Evan Miya), 132nd (247Sports)

One of Mark Pope’s former players is in the transfer portal, and is considering Kentucky along with Louisville, as well as a return to BYU. Khalifa is seen as one of the best passing big men in college basketball.

Khalifa visited Louisville over the weekend. He could be taking a visit to Kentucky soon. It makes as the first Kentucky-Louisville recruiting battle of the Mark Pope era.

Amari Williams – Forward, Drexel

Physicals: 6-10, 265 lbs,
Stats: 12.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 51.7% FG, 33.3% 3P
Ranking: 102nd (Evan Miya), 58th (247Sports)

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Williams takes pride in defense, as he is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He will be taking a visit to Kentucky from April 21-22. In addition to his defensive accolades, he was also named First-Team All-CAA last season.

The forward will also take visits to Indiana, Creighton, and St. John’s.

Jaxson Robinson – Guard, BYU

Physicals: 6-7, 190 lbs
Stats: 14.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, 42.6% FG, 35.4% 3P
Ranking: Not yet in the portal

Robinson isn’t a confirmed target, but he has been rumored as someone to follow his former coach to Kentucky, seen as BYU’s best player last season. He hasn’t officially entered the portal, but the buzz has been growing. Made louder when he reposted Mark Pope’s introductory press conference.

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Similar to Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard last season, Robinson was BYU’s best player off the bench, winning Sixth Man of the Year in the Big 12. Robinson does have a second-round draft grade, but Pope will likely try to sell him on NIL and the platform of playing at Kentucky. He would bring leadership and experience already playing Pope’s system at BYU.


Portal season is far from over, just getting into the thick of things with the offseason frenzy, even more so for Kentucky this year. Mark Pope will work to finalize a staff in the coming days and build a roster almost from scratch.

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