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John Calipari confirms which Wildcats are expected to return next season

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Sahvir Wheeler will return to run the offense. Who will join him?

Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

With the offseason here, so comes the annual flurry of stay-or-go decisions for the Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team.

However, while it’s still April, we already have a good idea of what the 2022-23 roster will look like, and that was essentially confirmed Friday.

During a radio interview with Mike Pratt and Dan Issel, Kentucky head coach John Calipari confirmed that point guard Sahvir Wheeler, forward Jacob Toppin and forward Lance Ware are expected to return next season, joining National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe.

Shooting guard CJ Fredrick and forward Daimion Collins have previously confirmed they will return for next season.

That means we now essentially know that Tshiebwe, Wheeler, Toppin, Collins, Fredrick, Ware, 5-star guard Cason Wallace and 5-star forward Chris Livingston will be on the roster this fall. That’s eight spots, so look for at least two roster additions to be made if Shaedon Sharpe and/or Keion Brooks are both gone.

While the expectation has been all of these guys would return, it’s great to get confirmation from Calipari, especially with Wheeler. Though he had his ups and downs as Kentucky’s primary point guard, Wheeler was a key reason why Kentucky won 26 games and earned a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

And there’s reason to think that he’ll be even better next season, given that Calipari’s specialty has been how well he develops guards. So long as Wheeler keeps improving his 3-point shot, he’ll continue to be one of the better floor generals in college hoops.

Wheeler actually confirmed his return late Thursday night with a video on Instagram.

It’s also nice to hear Toppin is expected back even as he tests the NBA Draft process. He’s been widely expected to return for his senior season, which could be a major breakout for him after being a bench player in his first three years of college ball.

With Brooks trending toward an exit from Lexington, Toppin will be a strong contender for the starting 4 next season. His box score +/- was actually second on the team last season behind only Tshiebwe.

As for Ware, there’s been little mention of him this offseason, so it’s good to hear Calipari expects him back. After being unplayable for much of his freshman season, Ware proved to be an important backup behind Tshiebwe this past season and had some solid performances against teams like North Carolina and Kansas.

As long as Ware and Toppin are back alongside Tshiebwe and Livingston, that could be the frontcourt Kentucky goes into next season with. I doubt they’d add another frontcourt transfer in this case unless it’s actually someone like Toppin, who was a developmental project when he came to Lexington after his freshman year at Rhode Island.

I would still expect Calipari to add at least one more guard/wing-type transfer and possibly two, assuming Sharpe goes pro.

2022-23 UK Basketball Roster

  • G Sahvir Wheeler
  • G Cason Wallace
  • G CJ Fredrick
  • F Chris Livingston
  • F Jacob Toppin
  • F Oscar Tshiebwe
  • F Lance Ware
  • F Daimion Collins

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