2022-23 Kentucky Wildcats Basketball Roster Projection
As of April 20, 2022, the 2022-23 Kentucky Wildcats are virtually guaranteed to open next season with a top-five team.
That’s because reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe will be returning to Lexington for his senior year, paving the way for the Wildcats to be among the hottest national title picks next season.
Of course, a man, even as incredible as Oscar, doesn’t make a roster. We already know that Daimion Collins and CJ Fredrick will also be returning, while Sahvir Wheeler and Jacob Toppin are also likely to join them.
The deadline to enter the NBA Draft is this Sunday, April 24, and the NCAA deadline to opt out is June 1.
With several Wildcats testing the NBA waters, that means we likely won’t have full roster clarity until June 1 at the earliest and likely later depending on what transfer options Kentucky is pursuing.
With that in mind, here is my first projection of what I think the Kentucky Wildcats Basketball 2022-23 roster will look like.
As mentioned above, Oscar will wait at least another year to start his professional career. He was projected as an early-to-mid second-round pick of the 2022 NBA Draft.
If Big O can expand his offense and continue to improve his midrange jumper, he could find himself thrown firmly into the first round of the 2023 draft.
And while I don’t see that happening, Oscar still has a free COVID-19 year that he could use and come back as a fifth-year senior in 2023-24. It’s worth mentioning since NIL will pay him more than any second-round deal if he doesn’t increase his stock.
Even with Oscar’s return, Daimion Collins looked set for a huge jump in Year 2 that should bring the oddball athlete back into the first-round discussion, even if he comes off the bench next season.
CJ Fredrick is one of the best shooters in all of college hoops when healthy, but his injury history makes him very hard to count to log starting minutes for more than 30 games, making it likely that Kentucky adds at least one backcourt transfer, even if Shaedon Sharpe shocks everyone and returns for next season.
Incoming high school recruits
With the backcourt pegged to at least five stock players, combo guard Cason Wallace is set for a major role next season and will likely be a one-and-done. I would look for him to be the starting keeper 2 when the season opens with Sahivr Wheeler in the lead.
While many thought Chris Livingston could play 4 in college, NBA staff actually consider him a 2 or 3 guard, according to KSR’s Jack Pilgrim. Wherever he plays, Livingston is a terrific talent who should also be one and do.
The question will be whether John Calipari can figure out the best way to use Livingston.
Kentucky’s backcourt will undergo a major shakeup with the departure of Kellan Grady, Davion Mintz and TyTy Washington. That’s over 30 points per game that Kentucky will need to replace in the backcourt alone.
Even if Sahvir Wheeler returns, I expect Kentucky to add at least one more guard this offseason, maybe two if Shaedon Sharpe leaves (more on him later).
Test the NBA Draft
While Keion Brooks and Jacob Toppin are both going through the NBA process, Toppin is expected to return next season. If that happens, it could spell the end of Keion Brooks’ stay at Lexington.
It just doesn’t seem like there’s enough room for both players to stay on the roster and have the kind of role they’ll want in their likely final season of college hoops (both have COVID-19 seasons they can still use back for the 2023-24 season).
So, since all the buzz has recently been positive regarding Toppin’s return, I predict Brooks will be somewhere else this fall, whether it’s pro or another school.
- PG Sahvir Wheeler
- SGShaedon Sharpe
- PF Lance Ware
We can pretty much write Shaedon Sharpe to the “Testing the NBA Draft” section, although he has yet to publicly announce that he will be testing the NBA waters. The question right now is whether Sharpe will actually be eligible.
NBA rules state that players must be one NBA season removed from high school graduation to be eligible. He didn’t officially graduate until December, but he had the credits to graduate in time to be eligible for this year’s draft.
As long as Sharpe is eligible to enter this year’s draft, expect him not to be at Lexington this fall.
Along with Sahvir Wheeler, he is widely expected to be back for his senior season, although I expect Kentucky to show interest in other potential point guard options for his next season. make sure there’s enough depth there.
As for Lance Ware, his status has been relatively quiet, but he came to Kentucky knowing it was going to take several seasons to develop to the point where he was ready to play heavy minutes at a school like Kentucky. He was also a great teammate and kept his spirits up throughout his two years at Lexington.
So for now, I’m anticipating Ware to be back and be a valuable backup in the frontcourt.
While there have been several transfers to Kentucky, the only one that currently seems like a realistic option is Illinois State guard Antonio Reeves, who just wrapped up a visit to Lexington. Kentucky also received a prediction to land Reeves.
In fact, The Athletic’s Kyle Tucker thinks Reeves could appear as early as this weekend.
The next two dominoes to fall (soon) for Kentucky, if I had to bet: Sharpe will declare and Antonio Reeves will commit shortly. https://t.co/sDAMnrRFRM
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) April 20, 2022
Reeves, who would be a senior next season, looks like a solid backcourt option who can play 2 or 3. And while it’s too early to know if that’s a realistic option, Reeves would have a free COVID-19 year he could use and return for the 2023-24 season.
In the high school ranks, combo guard Adou Thiero will head to Lexington shortly after landing a scholarship offer from John Calipari. Initially, it looked like Calipari was offering Thiero as a favor to one of his former players, but with a visit scheduled, it looks like the Pennsylvania product might be a catch, although I’m not ready to cast him on the listing.
Then there’s 5-star forward Leonard Miller who also visited Kentucky last weekend but still looks likely to skip college and turn pro this fall.
As for frontline transfer options like Morehead State’s Johni Broome, those are probably out of the question now that Oscar Tshiebwe is back.
2022-23 Kentucky Basketball Roster Projection
- PG Sahvir Wheeler
- SG CJ Frederick
- SG Cason Wallace
- SG Antonio Reeves
- SF Chris Livingston
- PF Jacob Toppin
- PF Oscar Tshiebwe
- PF Daimion Collins
- PF Lance Ware
- Unknown player
Overall, if that’s how the roster goes, it would be a strong contender to open the season ranked No. 1 atop the polls and be the early favorite to win the 2023 NCAA Championship.
He would also potentially feature 3+ seniors in the starting lineup between Wheeler, Tshiebwe, Toppin, Fredrick and/or Reeves, easily making him one of, if not the most experienced roster John Calipari has had at Lexington.
You’ll notice I’ve included Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves in this projection. He’s the only transfer Kentucky has welcomed for a visit this offseason, and recent buzz has been in favor of the Wildcats.
You will also see at the bottom where I have an unknown player listed. While I’m not confident enough to predict who that will be, I absolutely believe John Calipari won’t go into next season with just nine scholarship players, so finding a 10th seems like a no-brainer, and an 11th is also very possible. (perhaps a long-term development rookie like Thiero or even a development transfer like Toppin was).
What do you think of this first list prediction? Let us know in the “Comments” section!