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Roster Updates: Mid April

I'm already aware as I'm typing this article that it won't be accurate for long with the ever-fast changes that come with college basketball rosters during the off-season. With the departure of John Calipari to Arkansas last week, I think many of us expected some of the player's from last season's roster to follow him down to Fayetteville through their loyalty to a coach they once decided they wanted their collegiate careers in the hands of.

Looking at the Kentucky 2023-24 roster, so far only seven players have made off-season decisions. Not counting the given of Antonio Reeves and Tre Mitchell exiting the program (no eligibility left), the 7 players to make individual moves are Adou Thiero, DJ Wagner, Aaron Bradshaw, Zvonimir Ivisic, Rob Dillingham, Justin Edwards, and Ugonna Onyenso.

Adou Thiero was first to start the parade as he decided to enter the transfer portal (Mar. 28) just one week after the Oakland loss, announcing that he would weigh-out all options by receiving feedback from the NBA, being able to listen to any other programs that come calling, or maybe even a return to Kentucky.

Justin Edwards was second, with an announcement to enter the NBA Draft, and while he didn’t rule out a return to school, it’s not expected at the moment for that to be a real possibility to happen.

Rob Dillingham was shortly after, saying he too is going to the NBA. About as much of a lock to happen as anything I’ve ever seen, no one truly thought he would be at Kentucky for a second season.

DJ Wagner would be the next exit, announcing he would be entering the transfer portal (Apr. 15) and going the same route as Adou went. The former five-star guard will do his best to get a feel on his draft stock and see if it's enough to pull the trigger and enter the NBA Draft, return to Kentucky, or commit to another school. From what I'm hearing as of right now, it's looking likely that he'll transfer to Arkansas for another year under John Calipari.

After that bizarre Sunday night carousel that linked John Calipari to taking the Arkansas job, the following Monday morning (Apr. 8) Kentucky big man, Aaron Bradshaw, would decide to enter the transfer portal to leave all options open. Seven days later and not even twenty-four hours after the Mark Pope press conference, Bradshaw would decide to take his career up north to Ohio State for his sophomore season.

Capping off this newsworthy Monday (Apr. 15) of DJ Wagner to the portal and Aaron Bradshaw to OSU, Big Z would follow suit. The Croatian recruit would decide to follow John Calipari to Arkansas just two days after hitting the portal (Apr. 13), showing his loyalty to the guy who worked so endlessly to help get him to America last summer.

Oh, and not to forget, Joey Hart entered the portal as well on April 8th. The Indiana standout played a total of 8 minutes during his time in Lexington.

Most recently as of Monday night, big man Ugonna Onyenso decided to take his talents and enter the 2024 NBA Draft with no expectations of returning back to college. After two seasons in Lexington and the first coming with very minimal play, I think he is jumping the gun extremely early on this decision and another year in college would benefit him greatly, but these players receive a lot of advice from many different directions so there’s no telling who has told him what. I hope the best for him, but I’m not sure if this was the right decision. Either way, I’m here to report to you that he won’t be back at Kentucky next season.

Looking at the incoming recruiting class that was formed by John Calipari, shortly after he left the program we saw an expected mass exodus from those top-rated recruits to gauge all of their options with the coaching change at their once committed to school. In a span of a few days, Kentucky had decommitments from Billy Richmond, Jayden Quaintance, Boogie Fland, Karter Knox, and Somto Cyril, essentially wiping out their entire incoming class. The only remaining one left would be in-state recruit, Travis Perry. It’s clear which ones committed to the school versus the coach, which hopefully we’re seeing a spark in efforts for a change of that moving forward.

We still await what Jordan Burks, DJ Wagner, Adou Thiero, and Reed Sheppard decide to do, Kentucky did received a commitment - the first under Mark Pope - from BYU pledge, Collin Chandler. He originates from the 2022 class and was once a top-40 prospect. You can read about him here, and I selfishly love that it took only two days for Mark to receive his first commitment as the coach here. As he continues to build his staff, I expect many more ties to Pope to follow him to Lexington. We’re still in the ‘early days’ of all of this, so give it a little time to start ramping up. With the urgency of the portal and it being nearly May, I do expect it to be sooner than later that we know the staff because it’s hard to get players here without them knowing who they’ll be working with on a daily basis.

Stay tuned, the news won’t stop anytime soon.

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