Zvonimir Ivisic is the first former Kentucky player to follow John Calipari to Arkansas

Cameron Drummond, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

Zvonimir Ivisic is the first Kentucky basketball player to follow former UK head coach John Calipari to Arkansas.

On Monday night, Ivisic committed to Calipari and the Razorbacks out of the NCAA transfer portal. Ivisic, a 7-foot-2 player from Croatia, entered his name into the portal Saturday, one day before Kentucky formally introduced new head coach Mark Pope.

Pope met with Ivisic on Monday morning. Ivisic announced his transfer to Arkansas in a social media post, which referenced that meeting with Pope.

“Today I met with Coach Pope and had a great meeting with him,” Ivisic wrote. “He’s an amazing guy and a great coach and he will do big things here! After our conversation I informed him that I will not be returning to Kentucky.”

Known to most Kentucky fans as “Big Z,” Ivisic played in only 15 games as a freshman during the 2023-24 Kentucky basketball season. He averaged 5.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots in 11.7 minutes per game, and shot 57.7% from the field and 37.5% from 3-point range.

Ivisic’s arrival at Kentucky was a saga in and of itself: He was a late commit to Kentucky’s top-ranked 2023 recruiting class, pledging to come to Lexington in August. Ivisic previously played at SC Derby, a Montenegrin basketball club.


Ivisic then had a delayed arrival to UK’s campus and sat out games while an NCAA investigation into his amateur status took place. Plenty of chatter during the early stage of Kentucky’s season was dedicated to trying to “Free Big Z.”

A T-shirt featuring that phrase was displayed by UK players prior to Kentucky’s first SEC game of the season at Florida.

Ivisic finally made his Kentucky basketball debut in a Jan. 20 home win over Georgia, and what a debut it was: Ivisic erupted for 13 points in just 16 minutes.

The 20-year-old went on to score 18 points in another high-scoring home win over Alabama later in the season. Those two contests were his highest-scoring games as a Wildcat.


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