Is Mark Pope finished with Kentucky basketball roster? Here are 3 targets to keep eye on

LEXINGTON — With May past its midway point, Kentucky basketball has filled 11 of its 13 available scholarships. Mark Pope, entering his first season as UK's coach, doesn't plan to let any spot go to waste.

In a recent appearance on "College Hoops Today," a podcast hosted by national reporter Jon Rothstein, Pope said filling the Wildcats' last two scholarships is the staff's No. 1 priority. The 13th and final scholarship, Pope said, is viewed as "a floating piece" for the team.

"The way we envision it is, it could be a place for a young player," he told Rothstein. "It could be a place for a senior player who is going to take a redshirt year. It could be a place for a project. It could be a place for a high-risk guy. We're really dialed in on filling these last two spots as a priority right now."

At least one of the remaining two spots — if not both — will be another transfer portal commit. Kentucky already is set to bring in eight transfers next season:  Ansley Almonor (Fairleigh Dickinson), Koby Brea (Dayton), Lamont Butler (San Diego State), Andrew Carr (Wake Forest), Brandon Garrison (Oklahoma State), Kerr Kriisa (West Virginia), Otega Oweh (Oklahoma) and Amari Williams (Drexel).

Who else might the Wildcats pluck from the transfer portal?

Here are three names to keep an eye on:

The favorites

Chaz Lanier (North Florida)

Kentucky is interested in possibly adding former North Florida guard Chaz Lanier to its 2024-25 basketball roster.
Kentucky is interested in possibly adding former North Florida guard Chaz Lanier to its 2024-25 basketball roster.

Kentucky is in a heated battle to land Chaz Lanier, who starred at North Florida the past four seasons. He recently visited BYU and wrapped up a trip to Lexington earlier this week. He went straight from UK's campus down to Knoxville, as Tennessee also is heavily recruiting the Nashville native.

It's easy to see why so many schools are after him.

He's a high-level scorer, averaging 19.7 points per game en route to first-team all-conference honors in the Atlantic Sun last season. As a player who can go and produce offense without needing plays drawn up for him, Lanier is seemingly the only piece Pope and the Wildcats are missing: a lead guard. Put another way: a "bucket getter."

He started 31 of the Ospreys' 32 games in 2023-24, shooting 51% from the field (44% from 3-point range) and 86.4% at the free-throw line. Lanier failed to post a double-figure point total only one time last season, with four games of 30-plus points — topped by a 35-point outing versus North Alabama — and 15 games of 20 or more points.

Per 247Sports, he's the No. 11 overall player in the transfer portal, No. 3 among shooting guards.

Jaxson Robinson (BYU)

Jaxson Robinson has been linked to Kentucky from the moment Pope took over. That's because of their shared past: Pope coached Robinson the last two seasons at BYU.

Robinson had a breakout season in 2023-24, leading the Cougars in scoring (14.2 points per game) as he captured the Big 12's Sixth Man of the Year award. He also was an honorable mention for the All-Big 12 team, sinking 35.4% (81 for 229) of his attempts beyond the 3-point arc.

If Robinson indeed commits to Kentucky, it would be his fourth stop as a collegian.

Prior to his two-season stint at BYU, he played for Arkansas during the 2021-22 campaign. Robinson spent his freshman season (2020-21) at Texas A&M.

The biggest holdup is that Robinson is going through the NBA draft process. He could elect to keep his name in the draft. But if he decides to return to the college ranks, only one outcome is anticipated.

In a story posted last week from the NBA draft combine in Chicago, The Deseret News cited multiple sources who told the paper, "if Robinson decides to withdraw from the draft, they fully expect him to be playing for Kentucky next season."

A long shot (but still another one to watch)

Wooga Poplar (Miami)

Former Miami guard Wooga Poplar has received some interest from Kentucky.
Former Miami guard Wooga Poplar has received some interest from Kentucky.

While Kentucky isn't considered a front-runner for Wooga Poplar, it isn't entirely out of the race for the former Miami guard. For now, the favorite is perceived to be Villanova, as he's from Philadelphia. Rothstein reported last week Poplar was on a visit to Villanova that day "and will visit Oregon soon, per his father."

Last month, Poplar's father told another national college basketball reporter, Adam Zagoria, that his son "probably" would visit UK.

"They want him," Poplar's father told Zagoria regarding the Wildcats.

As of May 21, that visit has not happened.

That hasn't been a deal breaker for Pope's program before, though. Both Butler and Garrison committed to Kentucky without stepping foot in Lexington.

If Poplar spurns his hometown Wildcats of Villanova and the Ducks of Oregon, what kind of player would the Cats of Kentucky inherit?

The 6-foot-5, 197-pound guard averaged 13.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season for the Hurricanes.

When Miami visited Rupp Arena last season in the inaugural edition of the ACC/SEC Challenge, Poplar had 19 points and eight rebounds, albeit in a losing effort, as Kentucky rolled to a 95-73 victory.

Reach Kentucky men’s basketball and football reporter Ryan Black at and follow him on X at @RyanABlack.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky basketball transfer portal targets for Mark Pope in Year 1