Trouble keeping track of all the new UK basketball players? Here’s a look at every Cat.

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The first commitment came in four days after Mark Pope was officially announced as the next men’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, and it’s been a flurry of activity since.

From Collin Chandler’s flip to the Wildcats on April 16 to Jaxson Robinson’s transfer to Lexington on May 30 — with 10 more additions in between — the new UK coach built his first roster in a matter of a little over six weeks.

With that roster now pretty much complete — just one available scholarship remains — and the new Wildcats already arriving on campus to begin summer preparations for the 2024-25 season, here’s a full rundown of Pope’s first Kentucky team and how those players fit together.

Lamont Butler was the Mountain West defensive player of the year while playing for San Diego State last season.
Lamont Butler was the Mountain West defensive player of the year while playing for San Diego State last season.

Kentucky guards

Position designations have become less important in recent years — as former UK coach John Calipari was fond of reminding everyone — and the innovative offense employed by Pope will lead to several different looks on the court, but five of the 12 players on next season’s roster have been classified as guards in the early, official announcements from the program.

Lamont Butler: The reigning Mountain West defensive player of the year, Butler — a 6-foot-2 senior — should get plenty of minutes at the point guard spot after spending the past three seasons as a starter with San Diego State, playing a key role on the Aztecs’ run to the Final Four last year. Butler won’t be the top scorer on the team — 9.3 points per game this past season — but he’s averaged 3.1 assists per game over the last two seasons and had a 2:1 assist/turnover ratio in the 2023-24 campaign. He’s not a big-time shooting threat either — 32.4% from 3-point range over the last three years — but Butler projects as one of the top perimeter defenders in the country and has played in nine NCAA Tournament games in the past two seasons. That’s good experience for a program with just one NCAA Tournament win in the past five years.

Kerr Kriisa: A flashy playmaker with a knack for trash-talking, Kriisa — a 6-3 senior — will certainly bring a flair to the Wildcats’ program and up the energy level whenever he’s on the court. Kriisa has three years of experience as a high-major starting point guard — the first two at Arizona and this past season at West Virginia — and he’s averaged 10.1 points and 4.9 assists per game during that time. He led the Pac-12 in assists as a sophomore and junior. His 3-point shooting numbers have also increased over each of those three years as a starter, topping out at 42.4% (with 2.7 makes per game) in 2023-24. Pope has long had an eye on Kriisa — pursuing him during his original recruitment as a prep player — and he appears to be a great fit for the new UK coach’s offensive style. His “bold personality” — those were Pope’s words upon Kriisa’s signing — is likely to get attention in the SEC this season.

Otega Oweh: One of the first commitments of the Pope era, Oweh — a 6-5 player with two years of NCAA eligibility remaining — was a starter for Oklahoma this past season, averaging 11.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting 37.7% from 3-point range. His upside as a slasher and shooter make him one of the most intriguing players on Pope’s first UK roster, but he’s already accomplished on the defensive end, averaging 1.5 steals in 24.8 minutes per game as a sophomore and earning the reputation as a tenacious and physical perimeter defender. In fact, he was one of the best defensive guards in the transfer portal this offseason. He’s expected to play major minutes in year one with the Wildcats.

Collin Chandler: A top 40 recruit in the 2022 class, Chandler has spent the past two years as a Mormon missionary, taking him away from basketball and making the freshman guard a bit of a wild card in his first season of college. Chandler, currently listed at 6-4, has grown more than an inch since his high school days and will be closer to 6-6 by the start of the season. He’s a tremendous scorer, and his previous coaches have raved about the intensity and work ethic that Chandler brings to the gym. Pope, who coached several players coming off mission trips at BYU, has a detailed plan for Chandler’s transition to college, and he could emerge over the course of the season as a key player for the Wildcats right away. No matter what happens in year one, Chandler’s potential beyond the 2024-25 season is among the greatest on this roster.

Travis Perry: The all-time points leader in Kentucky high school history, Perry — a 6-2 guard — comes to Lexington straight off a senior season in which he led Lyon County to the Sweet Sixteen championship and earned the state’s Mr. Basketball honors. Perry averaged 28.8 points per game this past season, shooting 41.7% from 3-point range (with 184 total makes) and 84.5% on free throws. With all of the upperclassmen on this roster, he might have trouble carving out a major role as a freshman, but Perry’s game should be a great fit for Pope’s offensive style and he projects as a key contributor over the next few seasons. 247Sports ranks him as the No. 77 recruit in the 2024 class. Of the 10 underclassmen on Calipari’s final UK team and the six players that were part of the coach’s 2024 recruiting class at the time of his departure, Perry is the only one who will actually play for Pope and the Wildcats next season.

Trent Noah was a star player at Harlan County High School in Kentucky before committing to the Wildcats for the 2024-25 season.
Trent Noah was a star player at Harlan County High School in Kentucky before committing to the Wildcats for the 2024-25 season.

Kentucky wings

These three players were classified as “wings” in Kentucky’s initial roster announcements:

Koby Brea: Arguably the best returning 3-point shooter in all of college basketball, Brea — a 6-6 senior — is incredibly efficient as an offensive player and should thrive in the analytics-driven, 3-point-happy offense that Pope and assistant coach Cody Fueger fine-tuned at BYU in recent seasons. Brea averaged 11.1 points in 29.1 minutes per game at Dayton in 2023-24, shooting an incredible 49.8% from 3-point range on 201 attempts. Over the past two years, 78% of his baskets have come on 3-pointers, and the talent around him at Kentucky this coming season is likely to lead to plenty of scoring chances for a player who is capable of hitting shots at any time. “Koby is a dangerous, dangerous man,” Pope said after he signed. Brea is a two-time A-10 Sixth Man of the Year honoree and has thrived in a reserve role at Dayton.

Jaxson Robinson: The most recent addition to the UK roster and the most likely candidate to be Kentucky’s leading scorer in Pope’s first season, Robinson — a 6-7 senior — was projected as a second-round pick in this year’s NBA draft before removing his name from consideration last week and committing to the Wildcats. Just 17 years old when he began his college career after reclassifying in high school, Robinson struggled at Texas A&M and Arkansas before blossoming into a standout player over the past two years under Pope at BYU, emerging as the Cougars’ leading scorer this past season. He averaged 14.2 points per game and made 81 3-pointers at a 35.4% rate in 2023-24. Robinson also earned Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year honors during BYU’s first season in the power conference.

Trent Noah: If not for Perry’s scoring exploits, Noah probably would have received even more attention over the past few years. The 6-6 wing racked up 3,707 career points and led Harlan County to the state championship game this past season, losing to Lyon County in the Sweet Sixteen finals. As a senior, Noah averaged 29.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, making 102 3-pointers (43.0%) and 295 free throws (88.9%). Pope called him “one of the elite shooters in this class” and 247Sports ranked Noah as the No. 109 prospect nationally in the recruiting cycle. He was originally signed with South Carolina before flipping his commitment to Kentucky last month. Noah might also have a tough time breaking into a major role in year one, but his size and shooting ability make him a promising multi-year player at UK.

Kentucky post players

Andrew Carr: A probable starter on Pope’s first UK team, Carr — a 6-11 senior — is a highly versatile transfer from Wake Forest who should be a perfect offensive fit for the new Kentucky coach’s system. He averaged 13.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots per game with the Demon Deacons this past season, shooting 37.1% from 3-point range. His decision-making with the ball in his hands, especially away from the basket, should make him a dangerous piece to Pope’s offensive puzzle, and he can also create for himself as a big man out on the floor. Carr’s defense — he’s more than capable on that end — has also been overlooked, and the 22-year-old should play a major role as a leader on and off the court. “He’s just like the perfect type of guy, especially if you’re trying to build a culture,” former teammate Hunter Sallis said of Carr. “He’s the prime example of a culture type of guy.”

Ansley Almonor: A relatively late addition to this UK roster, Almonor — a 6-7 senior — comes to Lexington after spending the past three years at Fairleigh Dickinson, where he averaged 16.4 points and 5.1 rebounds in 32.0 minutes per game this past season. Almonor is another versatile offensive player who should be able to play considerable minutes at the 4 while also blending in among a wide range of teammates. Over his past two seasons as a starter, he’s hit 168 3-pointers at a 38.8% rate, and Pope’s coaching staff identified Almonor as fit for the new UK playing style. Almonor was one of the first players to arrive in Lexington this week.

Amari Williams: The first official visitor and first transfer of the Pope era, Williams committed to the Cats about a week after the coaching change and comes to Lexington as the three-time Coastal Athletic Association defensive player of the year. Williams — a 6-10 senior — blocked 181 shots in 90 games over his past three seasons at Drexel, averaging nearly a steal per game during that time. During those three seasons, he averaged 11.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, doing most of his scoring damage around the rim. Williams also excels as a passer, however, and his decision making both near the basket and out on the floor should add another wrinkle to the UK offense.

Brandon Garrison: A McDonald’s All-American in the 2023 recruiting class, Garrison spent this past season at Oklahoma State and jumped to Kentucky in April following a coaching change at his home-state school. The 6-11, 245-pound post player has three remaining years of eligibility and projects as a possible NBA draft prospect. He was one of the top defensive freshmen big men in the Big 12 last season — with 1.5 blocks and 0.8 steals in 22.6 minutes per game — and brings another layer of physicality to the UK frontcourt. Neither Garrison nor Williams is a 3-point threat, and they’re unlikely to play at the same time, but both are capable of starting for the Wildcats next season and should provide a powerful 1-2 punch in the post. Garrison is also a skilled passer who plays well in screen-and-roll situations, making him a great fit for Pope’s offensive approach.

Kentucky roster fun facts

A few other notes on the 12 players that Pope has assembled for his first UK team:

John Calipari had one of the youngest teams in America in 2023-24, a roster that featured eight scholarship freshmen and just two upperclassmen. The first year of the Pope era will be completely different. Seven of UK’s players will be on their final season of eligibility, while Otega Oweh (a junior) and Brandon Garrison (a sophomore) were both starters in the Big 12 this past season. This roster features just three freshmen, and one of them — Collin Chandler — will be 21 years old by the time the season begins due to his delayed arrival to college.

The 12 players on Kentucky’s roster come from hometowns in seven different states and two foreign countries. The locations represented: California (Butler), Kentucky (Noah and Perry), New Jersey (Oweh), New York (Almonor and Brea), Oklahoma (Garrison and Robinson), Pennsylvania (Carr) and Utah (Chandler), as well as England (Williams) and Estonia (Kriisa).

A pronunciation guide for some of the UK newcomers: Ansley Almonor (ANS-lee AL-mah-nor), Koby Brea (BRAY-ah), Kerr Kriisa (KREE-suh) and Otega Oweh (oh-TEG-uh OH-way).

Mark Pope’s coaching staff so far: associate head coach Alvin Brooks III (formerly at Baylor), assistant coach Cody Fueger (pronounced FEE-gurr and formerly at BYU), assistant coach Jason Hart (former the G League Ignite head coach), associate coach Mark Fox (longtime college head coach) and director of operations Nick Robinson (formerly at BYU).

Of the 12 players on the new UK roster, only one has been coached by anyone on this Kentucky staff. Jaxson Robinson played the past two seasons for Pope at BYU, and Fueger and Robinson were both assistant coaches on those teams. Chandler was committed to BYU before leaving the United States for his mission trip, but he has never played for Pope.

College basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa ranks Kentucky’s transfer class at No. 4 nationally, and seven of the Wildcats’ incoming players are listed inside his top 100 for this cycle. No other school has more than five such transfers.

Who’s next for UK basketball?

Mark Pope still has one scholarship spot remaining for the 2024-25 season. Will he use it?

The UK coaching staff has indicated that every spot will be filled by the start of the season, though it seems increasingly unlikely that — if there is another addition — it will come from an instant-impact player.

This team already has seven veterans going into their final year of NCAA eligibility, plus two others (Garrison and Oweh) who were Big 12 starters in 2023-24. Obviously, all will be looking for ample playing time right away. Chandler could also be as talented as any player on the roster, and both Noah and Perry have the ability to play right away as freshmen.

Even with Pope’s track record of finding minutes for a large number of players — 10 guys on his last BYU team played at least 9.5 minutes per game and made at least 23 appearances — it’s already a crowded situation.

Pope has talked recently about a few scenarios for that 13th spot. It could go to a young player who projects as more of a long-term project. Oak Hill (Virginia) center Jamie Vinson looked to be a possibility, and he visited UK last month, but Vinson committed to Texas this week.

That position might go to a veteran player willing to redshirt the 2024-25 season in preparation for the following campaign.

A high school reclass is always possible, and five-star forward Will Riley is visiting UK this week. Riley is one of the top scorers in the 2025 class and has often been mentioned as a potential 2024 reclass candidate, though he’d probably need major minutes right away, which could make for a difficult juggling act with playing time.

While this is less of a factor during the current era of NIL, it might also be worth holding on to that 13th scholarship for a possible midseason addition, the route that eventual national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe took to Kentucky, committing to the Cats after his fall semester at West Virginia during the 2020-21 season before blossoming into a star with the Wildcats.

Whatever happens next, Pope and his UK staff have already built a roster worthy of preseason Top 25 consideration in year one, and — with those Wildcats starting to flock to their new Kentucky home this week — the on-court jelling should start soon.

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