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Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso returning to Kentucky

Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso will be defending again next season
Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso will be defending again next season (

Just days after entering his name into the transfer portal, Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso announced he will be returning to the University of Kentucky for his sophomore season.

The seven-footer was believed not so long ago to have been Big East bound with programs like UCONN and St. John's being rumored predominately. That was not the case, and momentum turned rather quickly back toward the Wildcats.

The path to the 2023-24 roster has taken a confusing road the past few weeks. Onyenso told the Lexington Herald-Leader in late March that he would be returning next season. John Calipari made no bones on his final radio show of the season that he was looking forward to coaching Onyenso and another incoming seven-footer, Aaron Bradshaw.

“We may be able to play two 7-footers at one time because they’re both skilled,” Calipari said. “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.”

Calipari also added recently, "“At the end of the day, my guess is he’ll (Onyenso) be if not the best, one of the best big guys in the country next year.”

Multiple sources have told Cats Illustrated that he did not want to transfer from Kentucky, but his powerful inner circle initially did not share the same feelings.

Onyenso, came to Kentucky with the reputation of an elite post defender and rim protector thanks to his 7-foot-5 wingspan. He had 16 blocked shots in very limited time, and averaged 2.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, and shot 52.8% from the floor.

He didn't have a large body of work in which to showcase his skills. Onyenso appeared in 16 of Kentucky's 34 games, and only played 110 minutes on the season. Starting center, Oscar Tshiebwe, commanded much of the playing time as he averaged 33.5 minutes per game in 32 contests. The other big men, Damion Collins and Lance Ware, appeared in 53 games between them.

Despite his place in last season's playing rotation, and the uncertainty of the transfer portal, Onyenso is expected to have an expanded role on the upcoming roster.

Onyenso had two games last season in which he grabbed 10 rebounds. He did it in 19 minutes against Duquesne, and 18 minutes versus North Florida. He also had four blocked shots against Howard, and three apiece versus Duquesne and South Carolina State.

The future look of the Wildcat inside game is still unclear. Tshiebwe has entered his name into the NBA Draft with the option to retain his collegiate eligibility. He is not projected to go in the first two rounds in any mock draft projections, and the expected reality is that he will be able to collect more compensation through the NIL than through any other type of professional contract.

Collins is also expected to make a decision soon about his future. Instead of looking toward the draft it is believed if he leaves it will be closer to his home state of Texas via the transfer portal. There should also be a statement coming from Ware in the near future, although there is a stronger trend that he will return.