As Kentucky basketball’s final roster remains in flux for the 2021-22 season, UK Coach John Calipari has set a target date for some much needed stability as the Wildcats plan on returning to “normal” summer basketball activities on June 1st.
Last season, some players did not arrive on campus until mid-July and were then restricted to just individual workouts with limited interaction with coaches at the height of the pandemic. In the past, Calipari has used the summer for team building activities and competitive scrimmages and has frequently said that “no summer” was one of the biggest challenges to overcome during a dreadful 9-16 season.
The June 1st date was recently confirmed by Nolan Hickman Sr., father of incoming freshman Nolan Hickman, a 6-2 point guard from Mount Pleasant, UT.
“We’re planning to send Nolan to summer school, just waiting for the dates to be finalized, but we’re thinking it’s going to be June 1,” said Hickman Sr. in an interview with Jack Pilgrim of Kentucky Sports Radio. “We’d like Nolan to report – just for us – the family is planning to get there early for orientation and to prepare for the first day of school. We’ll probably get down there late May to get settled in, get comfortable for that June 1 start.”
Now a year past the initial COVID-19 scare, things are slowly returning back to pre-pandemic mode with students back to in-person classes, fans attending sporting events and multiple vaccines readily available.
In fact, Governor Andy Beshear recently announced that more than 1.6 million Kentucky residents have received the first dose of the vaccine and that 2.5 million was the magic number for him to lift capacity restrictions and curfews. The mask mandate is expected to remain in place pending a ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
All of these things point toward a big summer for the Wildcats who currently have eight scholarship players confirmed for next season in returnees Dontaie Allen, Lance Ware and Jacob Toppin, transfers Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia) and Kellan Grady (Davidson) and three freshman in Hickman, Daimion Collins (Atlanta, TX) and Bryce Hopkins (Oak Park, IL).
“What will the team look like? How many news guys are blending with the veterans that are coming back?” Calipari said on his final radio show with Tom Leach. “It’s all about knowing each other and becoming an empowered team. But you have to do it by playing, and summer is when they start to get together.”
Calipari and his staff will also have to remain patient over the next several weeks as they’ll either have to dip into the transfer portal, or double-down on high school recruits to find another point guard and spot up shooter to complete next year’s roster.
The most notable name trending in Kentucky’s direction is four-star recruit TyTy Washington, a point guard from Arizona who is currently ranked No. 32 in the Class of 2021. The 6-foot-2 Max Preps’ Arizona Player of the Year, decommitted from Creighton and will announce his final five schools via Twitter.
The Wildcats will most likely have to wait until after the July 29th NBA Draft to get news on a possible return from Isaiah Jackson, Keion Brooks and Davion Mintz.
Jackson, projected as a first round pick, has not signed with an agent and could return if he’s not taken in the lottery. Brooks and Mintz are both testing the waters for professional opportunities, either in the G League or overseas, and could return for another season.