Another John Calipari player is leaving Kentucky. This one plans to stay in the NBA draft.

Another University of Kentucky men’s basketball player made an announcement regarding his future Monday night.

Ugonna Onyenso — a 7-foot sophomore on this past season’s UK team — will declare for the NBA draft. Onyenso plans to hire an agent and forgo his remaining two years of NCAA eligibility, according to ESPN.

He said that he made his decision before meeting in person with new Kentucky coach Mark Pope.

“As of today, I don’t plan on entering the transfer portal,” Onyenso told ESPN. “I feel like I am ready for the NBA. I haven’t met with Mark Pope. I only spoke on the phone with him three days ago. I’m ready to go to the next level and show what I can do, but I’m not closing any doors.”

Onyenso, a 19-year-old post player from Nigeria, had a more definitive statement in the same interview with ESPN, who ranks him as the No. 47 overall prospect in the 2024 draft.

“I’m not thinking about coming back to play college basketball,” he said. “I’m 100% focused on the NBA.”

The transfer portal closes on May 1, and any players who have not entered their names by that point would remain with their current schools if they returned to college basketball. The final NBA draft deadline is May 29.

Onyenso played sparingly as a freshman — arriving on campus just before the start of the 2022-23 academic calendar — before emerging as the Wildcats’ starting center in year two despite missing the entire preseason and the first month of games with a foot injury suffered over the summer.

He averaged 3.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots in 18.6 minutes per game, making 14 starts in 24 appearances as a sophomore. He made his debut in the Cats’ win over North Carolina on Dec. 16 and blocked 10 shots in a victory over Ole Miss two months later, setting a new UK record for most blocks in a game in Rupp Arena and tying the overall mark held by Navy’s David Robinson, who swatted 10 Kentucky shots in a loss in Lexington in 1987.

Onyenso is the latest Kentucky player to leave the program in the wake of John Calipari’s departure. The longtime UK coach stepped down last week after 15 years with the Wildcats to take over the Arkansas Razorbacks’ program.

Kentucky sophomore Ugonna Onyenso averaged 2.8 blocks in 18.6 minutes per game for the Wildcats this season.
Kentucky sophomore Ugonna Onyenso averaged 2.8 blocks in 18.6 minutes per game for the Wildcats this season.

All three of UK’s 7-footers from this past season — Aaron Bradshaw, Zvonimir Ivisic and Onyenso — have now announced that they’re leaving the program. Bradshaw, who entered the transfer portal last week, committed to Ohio State on Monday. Ivisic announced Saturday night that he was entering the portal, and the 7-2 forward from Croatia revealed Monday that he is going to transfer to Arkansas to play a second season under Calipari.

Pope was officially named the new head coach of the Cats on Friday, and he was introduced to UK fans in a ceremony at Rupp Arena on Sunday afternoon. So far, none of the 10 players with remaining eligibility from the 2023-24 Kentucky team have pledged to return to the Cats and play for Pope next season, though that is not necessarily a surprise. Calipari was expected to lose at least half of that group — including Onyenso — even if he’d returned for a 16th season.

Earlier on Monday, freshman point guard D.J. Wagner entered the transfer portal. Sophomore forward Adou Thiero and freshman guard Joey Hart were already in the transfer portal. Fellow freshman Rob Dillingham and Justin Edwards have already declared for the NBA draft.

That leaves only national freshman of the year Reed Sheppard and reserve freshman Jordan Burks as the remaining UK players who have not yet made decisions on their immediate futures.

As of Monday night, Pope had zero players fully committed to Kentucky for the 2024-25 season, though high school recruit Travis Perry — the state’s reigning Mr. Basketball — attended Pope’s introduction in Rupp Arena on Sunday and received a shout-out from the new UK coach. Perry is expected to confirm soon that he will remain with the program. He’s likely to be the only player from Calipari’s 2024 recruiting class — previously ranked No. 2 in the country — to stick with the Wildcats for next season.

On Tuesday morning, former top-40 recruit Collin Chandler — Pope’s top incoming freshman at BYU and the school’s highest-ranked commitment in nearly a decade — revealed that he is now committed to Kentucky for next season. Chandler — a 6-4 combo guard — has spent the past two years on a mission trip and was the No. 37 overall recruit in the 2022 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Pope said Sunday that he and his new coaching staff will be talking to “every player in the portal” moving forward as they look to build their first roster at Kentucky.

“We are going to find the guys that fit here, the way we play, and the guys that will come here and understand what a gift it is to play here at the University of Kentucky,” Pope said.

The incoming coach already has visits set up with two frontcourt transfer possibilities.

One of Pope’s key players from BYU this past season — Aly Khalifa, a 6-11, 270-pound center — will take an official visit to Louisville this week and has already narrowed his list to Kentucky, U of L and a return to the Cougars.

UK will host Drexel’s Amari Williams — a 6-10 forward with a 7-5 wingspan who previously played at Drexel — for an official visit starting this weekend. Williams averaged 12.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.8 blocks per game this past season, earning Coastal Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year honors for the third straight year.

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