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Zvonimir Ivisic Releases Statement Amidst NCAA Eligibility Situation, “I’ve Done Everything I Can.”

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Kentucky Wildcats center Zvonimir Ivisic shooting before game.
© Jeff Faughender/Courier Journal and USA Today Network

Starting the season with a lack of size due to player availability, the Kentucky Wildcats have added two of three seven-footers back to the lineup this month returning from injury, Aaron Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso. Both are already making an impact on the court. However, the one seven-footer that many believed would play for the Wildcats first is still waiting to be cleared by the NCAA, Zvonimir Ivisic.

Committing to the Wildcats back on August 1st, Ivisic first had to go through a frustrating situation with Kentucky admissions over an English equivalency exam, which delayed his arrival to Lexington to October 12th. Unfortunately, this also pushed back when his eligibility case could be submitted to the NCAA.

From Croatia and playing for a European club team, there are things for the NCAA to check academically in if he retained his amateurism. However, there is no real red flag around Ivisic, which is why the staff was confident in breaking him. UCLA’s Aday Mara is even in a lawsuit with his former club over his contract, yet, was deemed eligible back in October after 66 days.

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Now, 69 days later, Ivisic has still not been deemed eligible and there are rumors that he could return to Croatia and prepare for the NBA Draft there if the NCAA does not grant him eligibility soon.

Amidst his eligibility case and the rumors, Ivisic issued a statement on social media on Wednesday afternoon.

I met with Coach Cal and discussed going home for the holidays. My family and I worked really hard to gain admission to Kentucky, which took quite a while. With the ups and downs of this process, it’s been stressful and emotional for me and my family, but I can tell all of BBN that I’ve done everything I can. I’ve obtained a 3.25 GPA. I love this school. I love my teammates and going against other great players every day in practice. I love being coached and challenged and I’m hoping to hear that I can play soon. Go BBN!!

After a two-month-long admissions issue, it is good to see he could speak English well enough to post a 3.25 GPA in his first semester.

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Men's Basketball

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

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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.”

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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.

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Men's Basketball

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

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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.

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“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.

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Men's Basketball

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

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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.

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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.

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