Next season’s roster gives Calipari flexibility for starting lineup


Kentucky Wildcats forward Wenyen Gabriel and the bench react after a three pointer against the UCLA Bruins during the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament South Regional Sweet 16 at FedExForum in Memphis, TN on Friday March 24, 2017. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff

Chris Leach

As usually is the case for the UK men’s basketball team, spring departures for the NBA draft often leave fans with no clues of how next season’s roster will look.

However, after a couple of spring commitments and Wednesday night’s decision from Hamidou Diallo to return to UK, fans are starting to get a glimpse of what they can expect to see from next year’s team.

The Cats own the No. 1 recruiting class according to UK also has some valuable returners on next year’s roster, such as Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.

Some of the players on next year’s roster don’t play a set position, giving John Calipari various lineup options for any game situations. While nothing is set in stone, here is a preview for each position for next year’s roster.

Point guard

Barring any injuries or unexpected changes, Quade Green will take control of the point guard position next season. Green is a true floor general on the basketball court; similar to what Tyler Ulis was his sophomore year.

Green’s best asset is finding the open man, as he tied Alabama-commit Collin Sexton for the most assists in the McDonald’s All-American game with seven. Green’s ability to pass the ball and find open teammates will be a valuable weapon next season, especially with a young team.

Shooting guard

Diallo’s decision to return to UK Wednesday night gave the Cats a big boost in the shooting guard catagory. If Diallo had chosen the NBA route instead, that would have left four-star prospects Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jemarl Baker to fight over minutes.

Diallo’s experience of practicing with last year’s team will help the young roster that definitely needs a leader. Gilgeous-Alexander and Baker will be good backups, but this is Diallo’s team and the Cats will need him to perform well if they hope to advance far in the postseason.

Small Forward

This might be the most crowded position on UK’s roster, as Calipari has brought in three five-star small forwards for next year, led by Kevin Knox.

Knox surprisingly committed to the Cats on May 18, and could very well be a starter next season. Knox scored the third most points in the McDAAG with 15.

Calipari will also have Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington at his disposal, both of which could work their way into the starting lineup. With the combination of Knox, Washington and Vanderbilt, the Cats will likely not be shorthanded at the small forward position next year.

Power forward

Similar to the small forward position, the power forward position is loaded with talent for the Cats, led by Gabriel.

Gabriel is the leading statistical returner who averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds last season. However, if Gabriel disappoints like he did last season, Knox, Washington and Vanderbilt could be substituted into the four spot.

Calipari will have a lot of flexibility with his forwards, which will cause problems for opposing defenses.


The Cats have another returner in the center position who could make a big impact. Killeya-Jones did not play a single minute in the second half of last season, but he has reportedly improved his game significantly since the benching.

Five-star seven-footer Nick Richards will also carve out a role if he lives up to his hype. Last season the Cats had a lack of depth in the center position, but with Killeya-Jones, Richards and possibly Tai Wynyard manning the paint, UK should have no problem controlling the post and racking up points in the paint.

What to expect

It is way too early to make predictions of who will start, but one thing is for certain, the Cats have flexibility and depth on their roster.

If every player performs to expectations, the Cats could consistently play nine to 10 players each game. Calipari also has a limitless amount of lineups he can create because of the flexibility of his players.

That flexibility Calipari has in his lineup choices will give him and the Cats a great opportunity to win the ninth national championship in school history.