Ugonna Onyenso will be back next season and Calipari might play two 7-footers together


Ugonna Onyenso barely played the last two months but he expected his freshman year to be a learning season. (Vicky Graff Photo)

When Oscar Tshiebwe was in no hurry to talk to the media after Sunday’s loss to Kansas State, it was freshman Ugonna Onyenso who briefly talked to his older teammate and explained people were waiting on him. Tshiebwe responded by turning and talking to media members.

While others might not be sure if they will be back at UK next year, Onyenso confirmed after the loss he would be back and teammates believe the 7-footer has a bright future with the Cats.

During his final radio show one night after UK’s loss, Kentucky coach John Calipari indicated he might play Onyenso and incoming freshman Aaron Bradshaw, who is 6-11, together next season to add shot blocking — something UK has been missing the last three years.

“We may be able to play two 7-footers at one time because they’re both skilled. They both can shoot. They can shoot 15-footers, one can shoot 3’s, so you have two 7-footers that, if you choose, you can play them together.”

Calipari also said he thought Onyenso had a “chance to be special” and indicated he thought he could be the “best big guy, if not one of the best big guys in the country next year.”

Remember Onyenso played in only one game after Jan. 21. But he did continue to improve his offensive skills practicing against Tshiebwe, Lance Ware and others. He said going against Tshiebwe taught him how to be more physical

“I probably won’t have Oscar, Jacob (Toppin) around next year. I know that’s a position I need to fill. The things they didn’t achieve. I will work to achieve it for them and our team,” Onyenso said.

Onyenso reclassified last summer to get to Kentucky a year early and did not come to UK with huge expectations. Instead, he understood and enjoyed the process.

“I’ve been wanting to play for Kentucky. It was my dream,” he said. “I’m waiting for my time like I knew I would have to and that was okay.”

10 Responses

  1. Ok. Develop them. Whatever off season plan you have to enhance post players , crank it up another notch. Because right now I question uk’s ability to further the ability of post players .

  2. I will only name one post player that Cal developed. Willie Cauley-Stein. Project when he got here. He left as a consensus All American, National defensive player of the year, plus countless other accolades.
    I have heard some grumbling about Cal saying he might play two big men inside. Don’t see why. Bradshaw at 7′ 210 lbs. (who can hit 3’s) and Onyenso at 7′ 233 lbs. could be formidable. A lot of rim protection and the ability to pull a big away from the basket. It worked well for Holgrem and Timme at Gonzaga.

  3. Why the hell couldn’t he have played Onyenso at the 5 and Oscar at the 4 this year??? Jacob could have played the 3 and been a matchup nightmare. Oscar has a decent 17 ft. shot and could have worked on extending it like the pros said he needed to.

    The problem is Calipari falls in love with his guards and will make pets out of them. This year it was Wheeler and Frederick with neither playing up to their potential due to injuries and Calipari’s stagnant offense.

    The problem with playing two 7 footers next year will be the 3 guards who will also be on the floor. The big guys will never see the ball except on rebounds. Carl Towns was the last big guy that Calipari featured his offense around. For the life of me, I don’t understand why big guys come to Kentucky anymore.

    Instead, we get hotshot entitled guards who refuse to share the ball or play defense and get beat by the smallest guy on the court. This has cost us at least 4 national titles. This is Calpari basketball.

  4. If Cal believes Onyenso can be one of the best next year, he has just stated there was no real reason not to give him more time this year. Playing Onyenso along with Oscar would have been a nightmare for most teams and would have slowed a lot of teams down on driving to the basket.

  5. I think Cal needs to worry about shooters and guards.
    Two bigs on the floor for extended periods of time doesn’t work in the modern game.
    Not to mention if a big gets hurt you can always go small ball.
    You can’t substitute an injured guard with a big thought.
    Lack of enough guards and shooters was the downfall of this team.

    1. My thought which means nothing is this. He pondered playing guys more as evidenced in his post game comments more than once.. And then didn’t play that guy more..He thinks aloud. Me personally, because he does ponder aloud will not even believe anything till I see it.

  6. Amazing Cal. who woulda thunk doing that. Complained all season to play Collins.. who could have been a very good player Defense and offense as he proved in Bahama and preseason and same as Owensyo. not 4 minutes total playing time all season. you cant rell me these two could not have shut down so many points in the paint all season. Where opponents scored most of thier points all season.
    If u have 12 scholarship players. develop and play them, not just sit and rot on bench, as playing only 7 you have no energy left in starters and Cats lose every time in final 5 minutes. We all saw it happen .cant make shots, ft’s . lazy back door lay ups.
    It ain’t racket science Cal
    keep this up and watch decomitting show up

  7. Another online article says Onyenso coming back is a 50/50 thing at best. Sure Calipari is raving about him now that the season is over, but not playing any since January may be making him think about leaving UK. It’s no secret that guards rule the roost under Calipari.

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