Home » Kentucky basketball guard Adou Thiero testing NBA draft waters but might return to UK, too

Kentucky basketball guard Adou Thiero testing NBA draft waters but might return to UK, too

LEXINGTON — Adou Thiero‘s time at Kentucky might be done after two seasons. Thiero entered the transfer portal Thursday, a spokesperson with the men’s basketball program confirmed to The Courier Journal.

News of his transfer was first reported by Verbal Commits.

Saturday morning, Thiero issued a statement about his future.

“After talking to Coach (John) Calipari, I feel it is best at this time to test the waters professionally, entering my name in the 2024 NBA Draft, while keeping all of my options open, including a return to Kentucky,” Thiero wrote in a statement posted on his personal account on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “I’d like to thank the fans, my coaches and teammates for their support over the last two years. I look forward to going through this process to determine the next step for me.”

Whether Thiero remains in this year’s draft class or returns to college while remaining in the transfer portal, it’s not unprecedented for a player to withdraw his name from the portal and return to the same school. Kentucky experienced just that last year, when then-freshman forward Ugonna Onyenso put his name into the portal only to return to Lexington.

Should Thiero stay in the draft or transfer elsewhere, however, it would be a major blow to Kentucky’s future.

Since the end of the season — capped in shocking fashion in an upset loss to 14-seed Oakland in the first round of the NCAA TournamentCalipari has stated, on multiple occasions, his plan for the 2024-25 roster to be older. More physical. And, in a departure from the usual mass exodus his program endures after every season, Calipari hoped to retain multiple players from the 2023-24 roster.

Thiero checks off all three of those boxes.

Not only has he been a physical presence the past two seasons but he’d take on an even larger leadership role as a junior in 2024-25.

Thiero appeared in 25 games, making 19 starts, this past season. He averaged 7.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8, 222-pound Thiero was in the Wildcats‘ lineup for eight of the first nine games; he sat out Game 2 versus Texas A&M-Commerce with a concussion. That early-season stretch included the best outing of his career: a breakout performance in an 89-84 loss to then-No. 1 Kansas at the Champions Classic in Chicago on Nov. 14, when Thiero set single-game career highs in points (16) and rebounds (13). He missed seven straight games in the middle of the season — after playing 13 minutes in a win over Louisville on Dec. 21, Thiero didn’t take the floor again until Jan. 27 against Arkansas — with what the program listed as “general soreness” in its official game notes. He returned to start 11 of the team’s final 14 contests.

Undeniably, Thiero was an integral part of the rotation in 2023-24 when his health permitted.

It was a far more prominent role than he had as a freshman.

He appeared in 20 games for Kentucky off the bench in 2022-23, averaging 2.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in 9.5 minutes per outing. He had a standout showing in the preseason Blue-White scrimmage in Pikeville, with 21 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and three steals. But well down the depth chart in the backcourt (behind fellow freshman Cason Wallace and seniors Sahvir Wheeler and Antonio Reeves) once the 2022-23 season tipped off, Thiero only saw limited minutes.

He saved his best for last, though, posting then-career highs in points (seven), assists (two) and minutes (24) while tying a personal best for rebounds (five) in a victory at Arkansas in UK’s regular-season finale.

Thiero was a consensus three-star prospect coming out of high school. Per the 247Sports Composite, he was the No. 169 player in the 2022 cycle, ranking No. 6 in Pennsylvania. He also had offers from Indiana, Maryland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

At the time of his signing, Thiero was one of just three high school recruits with a three-star rating to join the Wildcats during Calipari’s tenure. The two previous three-star signees, Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis, were Kentucky natives. (The Wildcats added two more three-star signees in their 2023 class: Jordan Burks and Joey Hart).

Thiero’s father, Almamy Thiero, played at Memphis (2002-06) during Calipari’s time as coach.

That the younger Thiero is now in the portal runs counter to his decision-making process last year.

He refused to be intimidated by the top-ranked recruiting class that was about to arrive in Lexington.

“I realized if I transfer, it looks like I’m scared of the freshmen coming in,” he told The Courier Journal at the team’s media day Oct. 25. “Like I’m quitting and giving up on myself. Thinking like, ‘I’m not good enough to be here.’

“So I took it upon myself and said, ‘No, I’m gonna stay. I’m going to improve as a player and go and play as hard as I can every game.'”

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