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Where John Calipari's final Kentucky squad ended up after mass exodus via transfer portal

Cameron Drummond, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Basketball

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The dust has finally settled for John Calipari’s final Kentucky basketball team.

An offseason of sweeping change for the UK program — with Calipari leaving to become the head coach at Arkansas and ex-Cat Mark Pope being named Kentucky’s new coach — has featured a complete overhaul of the Wildcats’ roster.

All 12 scholarship players from the 2023-24 UK squad, which finished second in the SEC regular-season standings but lost both of its postseason games, are now gone.

Two of those players — forward Tre Mitchell and guard Antonio Reeves — were out of college eligibility after last season.

Three additional players — guards Rob Dillingham, Justin Edwards and Reed Sheppard — opted to go one-and-done in college and pursue professional opportunities via the NBA draft. Dillingham and Sheppard will most likely be lottery selections, while Edwards is projected as a borderline first-round pick.

That leaves the seven other scholarship Wildcats from a season ago who are still playing college basketball. All seven transferred out of the Kentucky program this offseason.

Between Calipari’s exit, Pope’s return and the assembly of a brand-new Kentucky roster for the 2024-25 season, you might have lost track of what happened to these ex-Cats.

Here’s a player-by-player look (listed in alphabetical order) at the new college basketball homes for members of last season’s Kentucky team.

Kentucky’s planned 2024 recruiting class was also significantly affected by the Calipari-to-Pope coaching change: Five of the six players in that UK recruiting group opted to go to a new school. Only 2024 Kentucky Mr. Basketball Travis Perry remained committed to UK.

Aaron Bradshaw

After one season at Kentucky, 7-foot-1 big man Aaron Bradshaw transferred to Ohio State.

Bradshaw — who averaged 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last season at Kentucky — will play for new Buckeyes head coach Jake Diebler, who initially took over Ohio State on an interim basis late last season after Chris Holtmann was fired.

Bradshaw missed the entire 2023 offseason and preseason for UK following a foot injury he suffered last spring. He didn’t make his on-court debut for the Wildcats until early December but made a big splash in his second career game with 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots in a win against Penn.

But that performance, along with a late-game 3-pointer in a road win at Florida to open SEC play, were the standout moments from Bradshaw’s time at UK.

Bradshaw — who found himself buried on the big man depth chart behind fellow 7-footers Zvonimir Ivisic and Ugonna Onyenso toward the end of last season — was the first player from the 2023-24 UK roster to announce his transfer to a new school.

According to college basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa, Bradshaw ranks as the No. 45 overall player in the transfer portal, as of Monday night.

Jordan Burks

After one season at UK, 6-foot-8 forward Jordan Burks transferred to Georgetown.

Burks, a late addition to Kentucky’s top-ranked 2023 recruiting class, averaged 1.9 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.1 minutes per game last season. He played in 20 games as a freshman.

Burks began the 2023-24 season playing in an unfamiliar role as a backup post player. He was deployed in that role because all three of Kentucky’s 7-footers on last season’s roster (Aaron Bradshaw, Zvonimir Ivisic and Ugonna Onyenso) were unavailable to play to start the season.

Once those big men returned in December, Burks’ playing time declined sharply. Only once in SEC play last season did Burks play more than seven minutes, and that came during a blowout win at Vanderbilt on Feb. 6, when Burks scored 13 points.

Burks didn’t play in either of UK’s postseason games in March: an SEC Tournament loss to Texas A&M and an NCAA Tournament loss to Oakland.

Originally, Burks committed to and signed with Ole Miss as a three-star recruit out of high school. But Burks backed off that pledge after a coaching change for Ole Miss when Kermit Davis was fired and Chris Beard was hired.

Burks occupies a unique space in the Calipari era of Kentucky basketball: He was one of only five three-star recruits (per the 247Sports Composite) to ever play for Calipari at UK.

According to college basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa, Burks ranks as the No. 499 overall player in the transfer portal, as of Monday night.

Joey Hart

Like Burks, 6-foot-5 guard Joey Hart was a late, three-star addition to Kentucky’s 2023 recruiting class.

And like Burks, Hart opted to transfer elsewhere after just one season in Lexington. Hart chose Ball State, a MAC school located in Hart’s home state of Indiana.

Hart was the least-used scholarship player on last season’s Kentucky team: He played only 10 minutes over seven appearances with the Wildcats. He scored his only points as a Wildcat on a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in a 118-82 rout of Marshall in late November.

Hart originally signed to play college basketball at Central Florida, before reopening his recruitment and picking Kentucky from a final shortlist that also included Indiana and Rutgers.

Like Burks, Hart is one of only five three-star recruits (per the 247Sports Composite) to ever play for Calipari at UK.

According to college basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa, Hart ranks as the No. 873 overall player in the transfer portal, as of Monday night.

Zvonimir Ivisic

You heard plenty about “Big Z” over the course of the 2023-24 college basketball season.

 

But now, Zvonimir Ivisic, a 7-foot-2 player from Croatia, is gone after just one season at Kentucky. Ivisic followed Calipari from Kentucky to Arkansas this offseason, and Ivisic was the first former Wildcat to pledge to join the Razorbacks.

Ivisic played in only 15 games as a freshman last season for UK, averaging 5.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots in 11.7 minutes.

He was a late addition to Kentucky’s 2023 recruiting class and arrived at UK after previously playing at SC Derby, a Montenegrin basketball club.

What followed that decision was a true saga: Ivisic had a delayed arrival to UK and sat out months of games while an NCAA investigation into his amateur status took place. A group of Kentucky fans even paid for a billboard that said “Free Big Z” outside NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

Ivisic finally made his Kentucky basketball debut in a Jan. 20 home win over Georgia, and he put on an electric display by scoring 13 points in just 16 minutes.

He also scored 18 points in a rousing home win against Alabama later in the season. While Ivisic’s offensive potential was clear thanks to his passing and floor spacing ability, his playing time was limited as the result of defensive shortcomings and off-court physical ailments and illnesses that impacted his practice time.

Ivisic was the 20th international-born player to play a game for Kentucky, 14 of which came with Calipari as UK’s head coach.

According to college basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa, Ivisic ranks as the No. 92 overall player in the transfer portal, as of Monday night.

Ugonna Onyenso

Both of Ugonna Onyenso’s two seasons as a Kentucky basketball player ended with him entering the NCAA transfer portal. While he opted to return to Lexington after playing sparingly as a freshman, he chose to depart following his sophomore season.

Onyenso transferred to Kansas State, although he initially planned to enter and stay in the NBA draft.

The 7-foot Onyenso was a late pickup for Kentucky in the 2022 recruiting class, and he arrived at UK just before the 2022-23 academic calendar began.

Ranked as a four-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite, Onyenso was dealt a difficult blow prior to his second college season: He missed the entire 2023-24 preseason and the first month of UK’s games last season with a foot injury.

Despite this setback, Onyenso emerged as Kentucky’s starting center and had averages of 3.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game. Onyenso’s 2.8 blocks per game would have ranked sixth in the country if he had played in enough games to qualify for that leaderboard.

Onyenso owns the UK record for the most blocks in a game at Rupp Arena: He swatted 10 shots in a home win against Ole Miss in February.

Onyenso was the final former Kentucky player from the 2023-24 team to settle on a post-UK playing destination.

According to college basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa, Onyenso ranks as the No. 228 overall transfer portal player, as of Monday night.

Adou Thiero

This offseason, 6-foot-8 Adou Thiero was the first Kentucky basketball player to enter the NCAA transfer portal. Thiero did so while Calipari was still the head coach at Kentucky.

But Thiero will have the same head coach next season, as he opted to follow Calipari to Arkansas after playing two seasons at Kentucky.

After a freshman season that saw him play different roles for Kentucky due to injuries and other player availability issues, Thiero settled into a sophomore role with defense and physicality at the forefront.

He started 19 of 25 games as a sophomore, missing eight games due to injury and a continued growth spurt. Thiero averaged 7.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 blocks as a sophomore, but he played only seven minutes in his final UK game (the NCAA Tournament loss to Oakland).

Thiero represented a new recruiting frontier for Calipari as well: prospects whose fathers also played for Calipari. Thiero’s father, Almamy, played for Calipari when he was the coach at Memphis.

According to college basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa, Thiero ranks as the No. 125 overall player in the transfer portal, as of Monday night.

D.J. Wagner

D.J. Wagner was viewed as the centerpiece of UK’s top-ranked 2023 recruiting class when he committed to Kentucky in November 2022.

But the a 6-foot-4 guard from New Jersey underwhelmed (relative to his one-and-done expectations) during his lone season in Lexington.

Wagner will try again next season under the same head coach: Like Ivisic and Thiero, Wagner will play for Calipari at Arkansas next season. Former class of 2024 UK basketball recruits Boogie Fland, Karter Knox and Billy Richmond will also play for Calipari and the Razorbacks.

Wagner, who was Kentucky’s starting point guard during the 2023-24 season, averaged 9.9 points and 3.3 assists in 25.8 minutes per game. While Wagner brought plenty to the table from an on-ball defense and halfcourt offense standpoint, his offensive production was streaky.

An example of this came in his final UK game: Wagner scored no points and went 0-for-5 shooting from the field in UK’s NCAA Tournament loss to Oakland.

According to college basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa, Wagner ranks as the No. 34 overall player in the NCAA transfer portal, as of Monday night.

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©2024 Lexington Herald-Leader. Visit kentucky.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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