After the two biggest dominos of the Kentucky Basketball offseason have fallen - Oscar Tshiebwe announcing his return and Shaedon Sharpe declaring for the draft - the rest of the roster begins to take shape. Via a radio show with former Wildcat legends Dan Issel and Mike Pratt, John Calipari announced that he expects Sahvir Wheeler, Jacob Toppin, and Lance Ware all to return to Kentucky for another season.
Sahvir Wheeler met every expectation set for himself in his first go around in Lexington. He led the SEC in assists, was a top five finalist for the Bob Cousy award for the nation's best point guard, and was an instrumental piece in Kentucky's road to earning a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Sahvir, along with the rest of the backcourt, had their struggles towards the end of the season, but the Big Blue Nation should not be concerned with Wheeler's play moving forward. Both Wheeler, as well as his backcourt counterparts, were suffering from injuries and were playing well below their potential level. Also, as a shot creator, Sahvir is most effective when players around him are making shots, which became much more difficult when TyTy Washington and Kellan Grady were playing through injuries. With a healthy and rejuvenated backcourt of five-star freshman Cason Wallace, 46% career three point shooter CJ Fredrick, and whoever else Kentucky finds in the transfer portal, Wheeler should be back to his most effective self.
Jacob Toppin has emerged as a fan favorite in his two years in Lexington for his energy, toughness, and extreme athleticism in which he plays with. He has had a bench role up to date but with the future of last year's starting power forward, Keion Brooks Jr., at Kentucky still in question, he very well may move up into a starting position. Jacob surprised some people when he declared for the NBA Draft, while still maintaining his eligibility, but it is now clear that the plan all along was for him to simply test the waters, get feedback from NBA executives and return to Kentucky for his senior season.
And how about Lance Ware! Lance has been the perfect embodiment of someone who buys into his role. He has never once complained about playing time, or the lack thereof, despite finding limited minutes having to play behind other names such as Oscar Tshiebwe, Isaiah Jackson, and Olivier Sarr. The center position will be equally as crowded this year with both Oscar Tshiebwe and Daimion Collins returning, but that will not stop Lance from doing what he does best; providing toughness, fight, and depth to Kentucky's roster.
Assuming these announcements are official, that would put Kentucky up to 8 scholarship players: Sahvir Wheeler, Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Jacob Toppin, Daimion Collins, Oscar Tshiebwe, and Lance Ware. They still have the ability to return Keion Brooks who is testing the NBA Draft waters and are heavy favorites for Illinois State transfer guard Antonio Reeves.