The Kentucky Wildcats are officially in “next year” mode as the 2022-23 season came to a close in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Looking ahead to the 2023-24 season, the Cats are bringing in the No. 1 overall recruiting class and could still return players from this past season.
One player that has already announced his return is center Ugonna Onyenso, and the hype around the 7-footer is growing.
In an interview with the Herald-Leader over the weekend, Onyenso confirmed he’ll return to UK for his sophomore season.
“I’ll be back here next season,” Onyenso said.
“He’s going to be a really good player,” Jacob Toppin told the Herald-Leader of Onyenso’s ascension. “When he gets the minutes, he’s gonna showcase what he really can do. And it’s special.”
Then during his final radio show of the season, John Calipari talked about Onyenso and the possibility of playing him and incoming freshman Aaron Bradshaw together.
“We may be able to play two 7-footers at one time because they’re both skilled,” Calipari said of Onyenso and Bradshaw. “They both can shoot. They can shoot 15-footers, one can shoot threes, so you have two seven-footers that, if you choose, you can play them together.”
To take it a step further for Onyenso, Calipari added that he believes he has “a chance to be special.”
Kentucky fans are used to having one of the best big men in the country, and Calipari believes that can be Onyenso next season.
“At the end of the day, my gut is he’ll be the best big guy, if not one of the best big guys in the country next year,” Calipari said prior to the NCAA Tournament.
Onyenso joined the team over the summer as a late addition after reclassifying from 2023 to 2022. However, he was never expected to make a massive impact this season as the plan was to learn as much as he could, then be the guy next season.
Following the tough loss against Kansas State, our own Tristan Pharis talked to Onyenso about next season, and he’s already preparing for a much bigger role with Oscar Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin set to depart the frontcourt.
Ugo Onyenso talks about stepping up next season and wanting to achieve things for Oscar and Jacob.— Tristan Pharis (@TristanUda) March 19, 2023
"I probably won't have Oscar, Jacob around... I know that's a position I need to fill. The things they didn't achieve. I will work to achieve it for them. I am just going to work." pic.twitter.com/yA7mt0IWDi
Only time will tell what Kentucky’s frontcourt looks like next season in what will likely be the first year without Tshiebwe in two seasons, but the early hype for Onyenso is there and only seems to be growing.
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