Kentucky basketball roster 2023-24 watch: Latest on John Calipari's team for coming season (2024)

Ryan BlackLouisville Courier Journal

LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Calipari's Kentucky basketball program has seen more roster churn than usual this offseason.

It started with the Wildcats' unusually large senior class. All six members of the senior class have made announcements: guards Sahvir Wheeler and CJ Fredrick transferred, forwards Oscar Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin declared for the NBA draft, and former walk-on Brennan Canada will return for a fifth season. Guard Antonio Reeves withdrew from the draft to maintain his college eligibility and eventually returned to Kentucky.

Along with Tshiebwe and Toppin, freshmen Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston left for the 2023 NBA Draft, while four more Wildcats entered the NCAA transfer portal. Only three Wildcats are set to return and join the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. That recruiting haul added two new members in June: Jordan Burks, who played in the Overtime Elite league last season, committed to UK on June 12; Joey Hart, an Indiana high school star who originally signed with Central Florida, pledged on June 17.

UK landed its first transfer of the offseason June 26, when former West Virginia forward Tre Mitchell committed.

The Wildcats picked up an international prospect Aug. 1, when Croatian big man Zvonimir Ivisic pledged to Kentucky.

Bookmark this page as The Courier Journal tracks offseason news related to UK's 2023-24 roster.

The future: What's ahead for John Calipari and Kentucky basketball after early NCAA Tournament exit?

Which Kentucky basketball players entered NCAA transfer portal?

PG Sahvir Wheeler (5-foot-9, 180 pounds, Sr.): There were high expectations when Wheeler, an All-SEC second-team selection in 2021-22, announced he would return for his senior season. But it didn't go the way Wheeler — or the Wildcats — hoped. He missed 12 games because of injuries, including the final 11. He entered the transfer portal on March 27. Wheeler began his college career at Georgia and led the SEC in assists per game in 2020-21 and 2021-22 (and would have pulled off the feat last season if he had played enough to qualify). His 656 assists in four seasons are fifth most in SEC history. Wheeler committed to Washington on April 26 during an appearance on "The Chop Shop," a radio show based in his hometown of Houston, Texas. He'll reunite with one of his former UK teammates: forward Keion Brooks Jr.

G CJ Fredrick (6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Sr.): When Fredrick arrived as a transfer prior to the 2021-22 campaign Kentucky, he had the best 3-point shooting percentage (46.6) among active Division I players after three seasons at Iowa. But he dealt with injuries all three seasons with the Hawkeyes, and the same held true with the Wildcats. He missed all of the 2021-22 season with a hamstring injury, then sat out seven games with various ailments (hand and rib) last season. Fredrick entered the transfer portal April 21. When healthy, Fredrick has proven he's a sharpshooter. He'll try to do so in Cincinnati, his hometown. He committed to the Bearcats on April 24.

F Daimion Collins (6-foot-9, 210 pounds, So.): Hours after Fredrick announced he was transferring, Collins joined him. A player of immense potential, Collins only flashed it on rare occasions in his two years with the Wildcats. He posted eye-popping numbers (35.2 points, 14.4 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 6.2 blocks per game) during his senior season at Atlanta High School (Texas). But Collins was buried on the bench for much of the past two seasons with Tshiebwe and Toppin in front of him. His father also died unexpectedly just before the 2022-23 campaign began. Collins announced his new school May 25: He'll remain in the SEC and play for LSU.

F Lance Ware (6-foot-9, 235 pounds, Jr.): A New Jersey native, Ware announced May 4 that he planned to enter the transfer portal. Ware found rebounds and minutes hard to come by playing in the same front court asTshiebwe(14.4 rebounds per game in two seasons with UK), and there was no clear path for more in the 2023-24 season. Caliparinamed Ware a team captain on the eve of the NCAA Tournament. But that designation was because of his even-keeled, vocal leadership more than on-court production. Ware made a career-high six starts in 2022-23 but averaged just two points and two rebounds in 28 games. He scored a career-high 12 points, his only career double-digit effort, in Kentucky's win over South Carolina State in November. Ware was a consensus four-star recruit in the 2020 class. Ware announced his commitment to Villanova on May 20.

Transfer portal targets: Who have the Wildcats been connected to and who could John Calipari add?

What is the transfer portal anyway? Explaining the NCAA's process for switching schools

Which UK basketball players declared for 2023 NBA Draft?

F Jacob Toppin (6-foot-9, 205 pounds, Sr.): Toppin, who declared for the draft on March 31, improved as the 2022-23 season progressed. He scored 10 or more points 17 times in UK's final 21 games after doing so in just half of the team's first 12 games. Entering last season having never recorded a double-double in his college career, Toppin accomplished the feat on eight occasions in 2022-23. He also showcased improved form from the perimeter, knocking down 50% (13 for 26) of his attempts in SEC play. Toppin went undrafted and later signed a two-way contract with the New York Knicks.

G Cason Wallace (6-foot-4, 193 pounds, Fr.): Wallace arrived as one of the top players in the 2022 class and played like it all season, earning All-SEC freshman team honors. He had 15 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in his college debut, then tied the program's single-game record for steals (eight) in a double-overtime loss to Michigan State. His 11 assists at Mississippi State were the second most by a UK freshman in a road game. The Texas native, considered one of the best defenders in this year's draft class, was the 10th overall pick (to the Dallas Mavericks), who then traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

F Oscar Tshiebwe (6-foot-9, 260 pounds, Sr.): The former West Virginia transfer became the fourth Wildcat to declare for the 2023 NBA Draft when he announced his decision April 7. Tshiebwe — a potential second round pick who doesn't have prototypical NBA height at center and was exposed this past season defending pick and rolls — revealed May 31 he would remain in the draft. He had a storied two-year career with the Wildcats, earning unanimous national player of the year honors after the 2021-22 season. He averaged 16.6 points and 14.4 rebounds as a Cat and his 48 double-doubles are tied for second in program history. Tsiebwe wasn't selected in the draft. He later signed a two-way agreement with the Indiana Pacers.

F Chris Livingston (6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Fr.): Another five-star signee in the Wildcats' 2022 class, Livingston declared for the draft April 12. He announced May 31 he would stay in the draft and not return to college. Livingston is considered a possible second-round pick. He came on strong in the final 11 games of the 2022-23 campaign, averaging 8.5. points and 6.9 rebounds, an uptick from his season averages of 6.3 and 4.2, respectively, and earning SEC Freshman of the Week at one point. The Milwaukee Bucks selected Livingston with the 58th (and final) pick in this year's draft.

Changing landscape: How NIL, transfer portal have altered John Calipari's Kentucky rosters

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Which Kentucky Wildcats are planning to return next season?

G Brennan Canada (6-foot-5, 205 pounds, Sr.): Canada has played in just 21 games over the past four seasons, totaling nine points, two rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal. He joined the program as a walk-on from George Rogers Clark High School and was placed on scholarship in January. On March 30, Canada announced he will return in 2023-24 — providing veteran leadership and practice depth.

F Ugonna Onyenso (6-foot-11, 225 pounds, Fr.): Onyenso's journey back to Lexington has featured its share of twists and turns since the season ended. On April 5, multiple reports said Onyenso had entered the transfer portal. But April 12, Onyenso tweeted he will return to UK next season. It is a boost for the 2023-24 roster, even if his numbers — 2.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and one block per game in 16 appearances in 2022-23 — don't jump off the page. He possesses substantial potential defensively, particularly as a shot blocker. Onyenso is in line to start at center in 2023-24 with Tshiebwe starting his professional career. But his health entering next season is a question mark after he injured his foot the day before the GLOBL JAM tournament began.

F Adou Thiero (6-foot-6, 200 pounds, Fr.): With so many Wildcats from the 2022-23 roster moving on, Thiero will have the chance to play a far larger role next season. He appeared in 20 games off the bench as a freshman last season, averaging 2.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in 9.5 minutes per outing. He impressed early, with a standout showing in the preseason Blue-White scrimmage in Pikeville, scoring 21 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, dishing out six assists and notching three steals. But stuck behind other guards in the rotation (Reeves, Wallace and Wheeler) once the 2022-23 season tipped off, Thiero only took the floor as a reserve. He saved his best for last, though, posting career highs in points (seven), assists (two) and minutes (24) while tying a personal best for rebounds (five) ina victory at Arkansasin UK's regular-season finale. 247Sportswas the only major recruiting service that gave him a star rating, ranking him a three-star and the No. 138 player overall, No. 3 in Pennsylvania.

G Antonio Reeves (6-foot-5, 205 pounds, Sr.): Reeves entered his name into the draft on April 4. He announced May 31 he would go back to college. But his return to Lexington wasn't officially revealed until June 21. Reeves provides a youthful squad with an established scorer. Last season, he had 10 games of 20 or more points, topped by a 37-point explosion at Arkansas in the regular-season finale to lift a short-handed squad to victory. Reeves also is a proven threat from the perimeter, knocking down a team-high 80 3-pointers in 2022-23.

Which players are joining Kentucky basketball from the transfer portal?

F Tre Mitchell (6-foot-9, 225 pounds): The Wildcats’ first, and (so far) only, transfer addition this offseason, Mitchell committed June 26 after spending the 2022-23 campaign at West Virginia. He brings a wealth of experience to the squad, having appeared in 102 games (with 92 starts), over the past four seasons, playing his first two years at UMass before one-season stints at Texas and West Virginia, respectively. He’s a versatile player who brings leadership and shooting — he connected on 47% (143 of 304) of his field goal attempts in 2022-23 — to the front court. By percentage, he’ll also be the second-most accurate 3-point shooter on the team, behind Reeves, after converting at 36.4% clip (36 of 99) last season. Mitchell is in line to play major minutes, especially early on, with front court mates Onyenso and freshman Aaron Bradshaw dealing with foot injuries.

More on Mitchell: What Mitchell brings to UK after transferring from West Virginia

Which recruits have signed with John Calipari and UK basketball?

C Aaron Bradshaw (7-foot, 210 pounds): Despite his size, Bradshaw, a consensus five-star recruit, isn't a traditional big man. He's as comfortable behind the 3-point arc as he is in the post. Though he could start at center next season — potentially in lineups with Mitchell, Ivisic or Onyenso — Bradshaw said at the McDonald's All-American Game he'd like to play small forward and power forward at times for the Wildcats. How much he'll play early in the season is a mystery, as he's rehabbing following foot surgery.

F Jordan Burks (6-foot-9, 190 pounds): A late addition to the Wildcats' 2023 class, Burks gave his pledge June 12 following an official visit. He once was part of Ole Miss' signing class, but wasreleased from his letter of intentafter theRebels tabbed Chris Beardas their new coach in March. Competing on the OTE circuit last season, Burks showcased his scoring prowess, leading the league in points per game in both the regular season (27.1) and the playoffs (23.0). He also averaged 7.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game during the regular season. The four major recruiting services have differing views of Burks' talent: ESPN and On3 tabbed him as a four-star recruit, while Rivals and 247Sports gave him three stars.

G Robert Dillingham (6-foot-2, 165 pounds): With Wheeler transferring and Wallace leaving for the NBA, Dillingham — the No. 2 point guard in the 2023 class — will have every opportunity to become the Wildcats' primary ballhandler next season. Dillingham played for Overtime Elite, a professional league for 16-to-20-year-olds in Atlanta, last season. He averaged 14.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.5 steals per game during the regular season. Dillingham upped his level during the playoffs, though, averaging 18 points and 6.5 assists a contest.

G Justin Edwards (6-foot-7, 180 pounds): Ranked among the nation's top-four prospects in the 2023 class by every major recruiting service, Edwards should immediately start for the Wildcats. He can score at every level, and defensively, his 6-foot-10 wingspan gives opponents fits. Though he'll likely start at small forward, he can play power forward in smaller lineups.

Ranking the best: How Calipari's 2023 class compares to his other top recruiting hauls

G Joey Hart (6-foot-6, 190 pounds): Just the fourth three-star signee during Calipari's tenure at Kentucky, Hart won't crack the starting lineup next season. But he could see plenty of minutes off the bench thanks to his 3-point prowess: He made 39.6% (219 for 553) of his attempts beyond the arc during his high school career in Indiana and led the Under Armour circuit in 3-point makes last year. Hart was one of six finalists for the IndyStar's 2023 Mr. Basketball award after averaging 23.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game as a senior, leading Linton Stockton to the Class 2A state finals and a 29-2 overall record.

C Zvonimir Ivisic (7-foot-2, 220 pounds): A native of Crotia, Ivisic will have an opportunity to play from the jump in Lexington; how much partly hinges upon how quickly Bradshaw and Onyenso recover from their injuries. At 7-foot-2, Ivisic would be the tallest UK player since Calipari became coach prior to the 2009-10 season. Ivisic also would be the second-tallest Wildcat ever, just one inch shorter than the 7-foot-3 Shagari Alleyne, who played at Kentucky for three seasons (2003-06). Ivisic's height belies his skill set; he's in the mold of the modern big man, routinely setting up on the perimeter to hoist 3-pointers. Playing for SC Derby of the ABA League the past two seasons, Ivisic shot 43 3-pointers, which accounted for half of his total field goal attempts (86).

G Reed Sheppard (6-foot-3, 175 pounds): An in-state product, Sheppard starred at North Laurel High the past four seasons. While not as highly ranked nationally as the other members of UK's 2023 class, the four-star prospect brings needed 3-point shooting (103 of 262, 39.3% as a senior). The Wildcats will be in dire need of that in 2023-24; of the top six 3-point makers for Kentucky last season, Reeves is the only returning player.

G DJ Wagner (6-foot-3, 170 pounds): The grandson of Louisville great Milt Wagner and the son of Dajuan Wagner (who played for Calipari at Memphis), Wagner is the No. 3 player in the country in the Class of 2023 and the odds-on favorite to lead Kentucky in points per game next season. While not a knock-down shooter, Wagner is a bucket-getter who averaged 18.8 points and 4.9 assists in the EYBL with NJ Scholars. He averaged 22.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and three assists per game his senior year at Camden High and finished with 2,040 career points.

Reach Kentucky men’s basketball and football reporter Ryan Black at rblack@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @RyanABlack.

Kentucky basketball roster 2023-24 watch: Latest on John Calipari's team for coming season (2024)

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