A “good” problem that Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari has had this year is almost having too many players at his disposal. The Wildcats can rotate up to 11 players if they want — all with serious talent and having good chemistry with each other.
Going back to Kentucky’s rotation at the beginning of the year, though, they had to play games without all three of their big men — Aaron Bradshaw, Ugonna Onyenso, and Zvonimir Ivisic. However, now that the team is just over halfway through the season, all three are healthy and cleared to play for the Wildcats.
Coming into the season, Bradshaw was believed to be a generational talent at both ends of the floor. However, he and Justin Edwards have been the two players to struggle with productivity. Bradshaw has been in the starting lineup over the last couple of months, but his place at the starting center position may be handed to a teammate going forward.
John Calipari says Ugonna Onyenso may start going forward:— Tristan Pharis (@TristanUda) January 28, 2024
"Ugo was the difference in the game. What does that do? Well, he probably moves up. He may start now and Aaron may come off the bench with Z. Z's just got to catch up to us. He will be fine."
Over the last few weeks, Kentucky has is only 3-2 in five games and 1-2 on the road. However, in those five games, Onyenso has given Kentucky life on the defensive end. His ability to consistently challenge shots and secure defensive rebounds has been a boost to the team’s defense — an area they desperately need improvement in.
For comparison, Onyenso has blocked two or more shots in four of his last five games. During that stretch, he’s also been able to add four or more rebounds at the same rate.
Bradshaw (despite being in the starting lineup) has blocked two or more shots just once and has four or more rebounds just twice during that same stretch.
This isn’t a thread to bang on Aaron Bradshaw. It’s nowhere close to that. Instead, it’s time to recognize the defensive value Onyenso brings to the table and how he can help set the tone early by being in the starting lineup.
Defense has clearly been something the team as a whole has struggled with this season. So, if the country’s best offense can improve at the other end, you could put Kentucky in the category of serious national title contenders.
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