Surprise surprise! Just when you thought we had finished introducing all the newcomers for this year’s team, Coach Calipari does what only he can do and adds one more elite guy to the squad.
On Monday, Five-Star Center Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso announced his commitment to the Kentucky Wildcats. Initially, Onyenso was a member of the 2023 class, but after much deliberation, he decided to reclassify to the class of 2022 and enroll early – making him the latest addition to a star-studded Kentucky team.
Best Shot Blocker in the 2022 Class?
Onyenso is the perfect addition to the team – standing at 7’0” tall, weighing 235 pounds, with a 7’5” wingspan, Onyenso is a mountain of a man that many experts regard as the best shot blocker in the 2022 class. Previously ranked as a top 25 prospect in the 2023 class, many believe Onyenso could have made a jump into the top 15 or even the top 10 if he played his senior season of high school basketball.
After reclassifying to the 2022 class, Onyenso now stands as the no. 39 overall prospect in the country. There is no doubt that playing behind the consensus National Player of the Year – Oscar Tshiebwe – and battling everyday in practice against the best players in college basketball will prove to be the right decision for Onyenso’s player development.
Game-Changing Size and Length
Last month, 247 Sports Scouting Director Adam Finkelstein said of Onyenso, “A 7-footer with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, he not only has game-changing size and length, but also terrific defensive instincts. He was one of the most dominant shot-blockers in all of prep school basketball last year, after arriving at Putnam Science Academy for the second semester. While his defense is currently ahead of his offense, he has a soft natural touch to develop and is also both a lob threat and a rim-runner who changes ends particularly well for a player his size.”
The initial plan, coming from Coach Cal and his staff, is that Onyenso will join the team after their Bahamas trip and get to campus when classes resume on August 20th. Onyenso is set to red-shirt this season and take the entire year to develop behind Tshiebwe – who most expect to declare for the NBA Draft at the end of the ‘22-‘23 season. However, it has been reported that Coach Cal is not opposed to letting Onyenso get some playing time this year.
Some Kentucky fans might be nervous, having gone through the entire Shaedon Sharpe roller-coaster of last season. Rest assured, this will not be a repeat situation. Jack Pilgrim of On3 and KSR tweeted that, “This isn’t a Shaedon Sharpe situation. Kentucky isn’t worried about another none-and-done scenario. Onyenso is elite defensively, but a work in progress offensively. He knows he needs time. And if he’s ready at some point this year, he’ll play.”
Onyenso is a native of Africa, just like his future teammate and fellow big-man Tshiebwe. Having grown up in Nigeria, Onyenso models his game after NBA Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo – often called the “The Greek Freak” – who also has family ties to Nigeria. In an interview with KSR, Onyenso said of his relationship with Antetokounmpo, “Giannis, that’s kind of my mentor. I study him. We kind of have the same situation … him growing up and looking at myself, I can see the similarities. It’s not even just about basketball, it’s his life off the court, as well. I study that too. I see myself in his story.”
Elite shot-blocking has been a hallmark of the Coach Cal era – last season the Cats slipped a bit in that area. With Onyenso on the team, shot-blocking and rim-protection should no longer be an issue. Also, the battles Onyenso and Tshiebwe will have against each other this season will only make them both that much better, and ultimately take this team to new heights.
“Ugonna” be happy that he’s on this squad!