Onyenso is one to watch for the future

Published 4:00 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

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He was not a factor for Kentucky once Southeastern Conference play started, but Kentucky coach John Calipari insists he has not lost faith in Ugonna Onyenso’s potential even though he did not play in either NCAA Tournament game last weekend.

“He’s behind some pretty good players, but at the end of the day, my guess is he’ll be, if not the best, one of the best big guys in the country next year,” Calipari said.

The five-star, 7-foot Onyenso reclassified to the 2023 recruiting class late last summer and didn’t get to UK in time to even make the trip to the Bahamas. However, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony had Onyenso as the No. 40 overall pick in a recent 2024 NBA mock draft even though he averaged only 2.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 6.9 minutes per game in 16 appearances this season – Onyenso is not eligible for this year’s draft.

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In non-conference play, he had nine points, ten rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes against Howard and seven points, ten rebounds and three blocks against North Florida.

Calipari said Lance Ware was a more physical player than Onyenso and Daimion Collins, who also played sparingly, was a similar player to Onyenso but with more experience.

“I met with Ugonna. He’s the greatest kid. He said, ‘Coach, coach, coach, I didn’t expect to be playing. Whatever you need me to do, I’m there.’ He has gotten so much better as a player,” Calipari said.

“You think about what he did early. But you got Oscar (Tshiebwe) , you got Daimion, you got Lance, you got some big guys out there.”

Onyenso was the one consoling Tshiebwe the most after UK’s season-ending loss to Kansas State Sunday.

“I have learned so much from him and it was not just basketball,” Onyenso said. “He’s been more than a brother. He’s really helped me.