Home » Kentucky basketball roster 2024-25 watch: Latest on first team of UK’s Mark Pope era

Kentucky basketball roster 2024-25 watch: Latest on first team of UK’s Mark Pope era


LEXINGTON — One of the most notable offseasons the Kentucky basketball program has seen this millennium is in full swing.

For the first time since February 2009, John Calipari isn’t leading the program. The coach, who spent the past 15 seasons guiding the Wildcats, stepped down from his post April 9. One day later, he was introduced as Arkansas‘ new coach.

In his stead stepped a UK alum and a captain of the 1995-96 national championship team (known as “The Untouchables”): Mark Pope.

Even before Calipari departed, multiple players already had announced decisions for next season. Forward Adou Thiero entered the transfer portal March 28. Thiero later clarified his status, issuing a statement about his plans: He will test the NBA draft waters but left open the possibility to be part of Kentucky’s team next season. Another Wildcat who could have provided experience in 2024-25, freshman Justin Edwards, declared for the draft April 4. Fellow freshman Rob Dillingham did the same April 9. Since then, six more UK players have made announcements: the 7-foot trio of Aaron Bradshaw, Zvonimir Ivišić and Ugonna Onyenso along with freshman guards Joey Hart, Reed Sheppard and D.J. Wagner.

As of April 22, every scholarship player from the 2023-24 team is set to play elsewhere next season.

Since Pope took over, he’s received commitments from two players: Collin Chandler, who previously had signed with BYU, and former Drexel forward Amari Williams.

Bookmark this page as The Courier Journal tracks offseason news related to UK’s 2024-25 roster. 

Which Kentucky basketball players entered NCAA transfer portal?

F Aaron Bradshaw (7-foot-1, 226 pounds, Fr.): The big man from New Jersey was one of the country’s top prospects in the 2023 recruiting class (ranked No. 4 overall in the 247Sports Composite). But after a foot injury sidelined him for the entire preseason and the beginning of the 2023-24 campaign, he displayed those gifts periodically during his lone season in Lexington. And it came after many Kentucky fans and draft analysts questioned whether he’d ever suit up for the Wildcats. Bradshaw, who averaged 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds in 26 appearances last season, entered the transfer portal April 9. He announced his commitment to Ohio State on his personal Instagram page April 15.

G Joey Hart (6-foot-5, 203 pounds, Fr.): A late addition to UK’s top-ranked 2023 recruiting class, and 2023-24 roster, Hart originally signed with Central Florida but was released from his letter of intent. Following his release, Indiana and Rutgers also showed interest before Hart picked Kentucky after an official visit to Lexington. A three-star prospect from Linton, Indiana, Hart was a finalist for the IndyStar’s 2023 Mr. Basketball award after averaging 23.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game as a senior. He led Linton-Stockton to a 29-2 record and a spot in Indiana’s Class 2A state final and finished his high school career with 1,901 points, 424 rebounds, 224 assists, 162 steals and 112 blocked shots. Those numbers didn’t translate immediately to the college level: Hart played in just seven games last season, totaling nine minutes and only three points. That end-of-game triple gave Kentucky the highest point total (118) of Calipari’s tenure in a win over Marshall in November. Hart entered the transfer portal April 8. He committed to Ball State on April 18, announcing his decision on his personal Instagram account.

F Zvonimir Ivišić (7-foot-2, 234 pounds, Fr.): After committing to UK on Aug. 1, the Croatian’s journey was just beginning. It took more than two months before he stepped foot in the Bluegrass State, as the university pored over his application as an incoming international student. Ivišić finally was admitted to the university Oct. 4 and arrived in Lexington the following week. But then the big man had to sit the next three months while the NCAA investigated his amateur status after playing in professional leagues overseas before joining Kentucky. The NCAA finally gave him the all-clear Jan. 20, and Ivišić took the floor that night, authoring a memorable performance against Georgia at Rupp Arena, where he finished with 13 points (on 5-of-7 shooting, 3 for 4 on 3s), five rebounds, two assists, three blocks and two steals in 16 minutes. Ivišić played in 15 games off the bench, averaging 5.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 11.7 minutes. He was a knock-down shooter, connecting on 57.7% (30 for 52) of his attempts overall and 37.5% (6 of 16) beyond the 3-point arc. Ivišić entered the transfer portal April 13 and announced his commitment to Calipari and the Razorbacks on April 15.

F Adou Thiero (6-foot-8, 222 pounds, So.): After playing sparingly as a freshman in 2022-23, Thiero established himself as a starter last season, in the lineup for 19 of his 25 appearances. He averaged 7.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, with a standout showing versus then-No. 1 Kansas at the Champions Classic in Chicago on Nov. 14, when Thiero set single-game personal bests in points (16) and rebounds (13). While he missed seven games in the middle of the season, he returned to start 11 of the Wildcats’ final 14 outings. Expected to take on an even larger role for Kentucky in 2024-25, Thiero was the first player to reveal his intentions for next season, entering the transfer portal March 28. If he does not remain in the 2024 NBA Draft, UK hopes it can convince Thiero to return to Lexington. Given his ties to Calipari (Thiero’s father, Almamy Thiero, also played for the coach at Memphis), it’s uncertain what Thiero’s interest level would be in suiting up for Pope.

G D.J. Wagner (6-foot-4, 192 pounds, Fr.): A bucket getter of the highest degree in high school (he scored more than 2,000 points during his prep career), Wagner was expected to be one of Kentucky’s top options offensively last season. The New Jersey native went on to average 9.9 points to go along with 3.3 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game. He participated in 29 of Kentucky’s 33 games in 2023-24, with 28 starts. His best game offensively came in November, when he scored a career-high 28 points in a 118-82 win over Marshall. Wagner reportedly entered the transfer portal April 15.

Which UK basketball players declared for 2024 NBA Draft?

G Rob Dillingham (6-foot-3, 176 pounds, Fr.): The electric North Carolina product always was a threat offensively, averaging 15.2 points per game — trailing only senior Antonio Reeves, who set a Calipari-era record at 20.2. Of Dillingham’s 32 appearances in 2023-24, only one featured him in the starting lineup, which came against Texas A&M-Commerce in Game 2. Dillingham, who won the Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year award and also was selected to the All-SEC Second Team (by both the league’s coaches and media members) and All-SEC Freshman Team, is expected to be one of the first players off the board in this year’s draft.

G Justin Edwards (6-foot-8, 203 pounds, Fr.): As expected upon his signing, Edwards’ time with the Wildcats lasted only one season. A mainstay in the Wildcats’ 2023-24 lineup, Edwards started 31 of the 32 games in which he appeared. Edwards averaged 8.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game. He was the highest-ranked signee in the nation’s top-ranked 2023 recruiting class. Edwards even entered the season projected as the top overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft by CBS Sports. But his lone season in Lexington had its share of ups and downs. He went nine straight games (from late December and continuing through January) without posting a double-digit point total. Edwards ended that skid with 17 points in a win at Vanderbilt. That jump-started a strong finish to the season offensively, as he scored 10-plus points six times in Kentucky’s final 10 games — highlighted by a 28-point outburst against Alabama at Rupp Arena on Feb. 24. Where he’ll go in the draft — if he’s selected at all — is uncertain. In his draft declaration, Edwards did not mention the possibility of returning for a second season at UK.

F Ugonna Onyenso (7-foot, 247 pounds, So.): Onyenso told ESPN on April 15 that he would hire an agent and enter this year’s draft, thus ending his college career after two seasons at Kentucky. After sitting out the entire preseason and the first nine games of the 2023-24 campaign, Onyenso went on to play in 24 games (14 starts) and average 3.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 18.7 minutes. Among UK players with at least 30 blocks in a season, Onyenso’s blocks-per-game average (2.80) is the fifth-best mark in program history, trailing Anthony Davis (4.65 in 2011-12), Nerlens Noel (4.42 in 2012-13), Willie Cauley-Stein (2.86 in 2013-14) and Sam Bowie (2.86 in 1980-81). He had eight blocks in an overtime loss to Florida, then tied a Rupp Arena record (established by Hall of Famer David Robinson in 1987) with 10 rejections in a win over Ole Miss. It’s unclear where Onyenso might go in the draft — if he’s even picked. In recent mock drafts from five different outlets — USA TODAYESPNBleacher ReportThe Ringer and NBAdraft.net — only one projected Onyenso will be taken in the 58-pick draft. ESPN slotted him off the board in the second round, going with the 45th overall pick to the Los Angeles Clippers.

G Reed Sheppard (6-foot-3, 187 pounds, Fr.): An instant fan favorite given his in-state ties (he hails from London) and program connection (his parents were standouts for the Wildcats in the 1990s), Sheppard quickly became a star in his own right. He logged a team-leading 4.5 assists per game and averaged 12.5 points, which ranked behind only fellow guards Reeves (20.2) and Dillingham (15.2). Sheppard played in all 33 of UK’s games last season, with five starts. He helped Kentucky rally from a double-digit second-half deficit at Mississippi State in February, posting a career-best point total (32) to go along with five rebounds and seven assists. And he capped the performance with a running floater in the final second to seal the 91-89 victory. Sheppard leaves Lexington as the program’s all-time leader in 3-point percentage, as he knocked down 52.1% (75 for 144) of his attempts last season. He also tallied 82 steals, the second most in a season in Kentucky’s illustrious history — and just six from breaking Rajon Rondo‘s mark. Sheppard declared for the NBA draft April 18.

Which players are joining Kentucky basketball from the transfer portal?

F Amari Williams (6-foot-10, 265 pounds): Winner of the Coastal Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year Award each of the last three seasons, Williams became Pope’s first transfer commitment April 21. He was a shot-blocking menace for the Dragons, leading the CAA in blocks per game three years running: 2.0 in 2021-22, 2.2 in 2022-23 and 1.8 in 2023-24. Williams averaged 10.3 points per game in his four seasons at Drexel, with a personal-best 13.7 per outing in 2022-23; he averaged 12.2 last season. He rarely stepped out to the perimeter offensively, attempting only 26 3-pointers over the last four seasons. But he’s proven to be efficient with the ball in his hands, making more than half his shots (51.9%; 399 for 769) at Drexel. Williams led the league in field goal percentage in 2022-23 (156 of 298, good for a 52.3% clip) and made 51.7% (139 for 269) of his attempts last season.

Which recruits have committed to Mark Pope and UK basketball? 

G Collin Chandler (6-foot-4, 170 pounds): A Utah native, Chandler was originally set to play for Pope next season at BYU. Instead, Chandler on April 16 became the first commitment of the Pope era at Kentucky. A member of the 2022 class, Chandler has been away on a two-year mission but now will enroll at UK for his freshman season. Per the 247Sports Composite, Chandler was a four-star prospect in the 2022 cycle, ranking No. 37 nationally and No. 6 at his position (combo/shooting guard). He was the No. 1 prospect in Utah in 2022, per the composite rankings. A three-time first-team all-state honoree, Chandler was named the 2022 Gatorade Player of the Year in Utah after averaging 21.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

G Travis Perry (6-foot-2, 170 pounds): Perry’s reputation precedes him, as he’s the all-time leading scorer in the history of Kentucky high school basketball, eclipsing “King” Kelly Coleman‘s mark that had stood since 1956. Perry is Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball winner after averaging 28.8 points and 5.2 rebounds, leading Lyon County to a 36-3 record and the school’s first state title. He made 49.8% of his shots from the field, including 41.7% beyond the 3-point arc (184 of 441) and 84.5% from the free-throw line. His 184 triples set a single-season state mark. Perry, who joined Lyon County’s varsity team as a seventh grader, ended his high school career with 5,481 points, becoming only the 10th high school boys basketball player in history to surpass the 5,000-point barrier, according to MaxPreps. Perry also set state records for career 3-pointers made (712) and career free throws made (933). He earned first-team All-State honors three straight seasons after landing on the third team as a freshman. Perry is a consensus four-star prospect in the 2024 cycle. Per the 247Sports Composite rankings, Perry is the country’s No. 81 player in 2024 and No. 1 in the Bluegrass State.

This story will be updated as more Kentucky players make announcements about their plans for the 2024-25 season.

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