After arriving on campus in Lexington earlier this month and beginning summer workouts with new strength and conditioning coach Brady Welsh, the Kentucky men’s basketball team went through its first official practice on Wednesday.
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Back at it. First practice ?? pic.twitter.com/Rt4zRbp9xf
— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) June 15, 2022
The Wildcats have about eight weeks to prepare for its foreign trip to the Bahamas, where they’ll play four games against international competition Aug. 8-14. It will be UK’s third such trip to the Bahamas. The previous two resulted in a 38-1 season and Final Four berth in 2014-15 and a 30-7 finish and Elite 8 appearance in 2018-19. The NCAA allows teams to take a foreign trip once every four years.
The Wildcats’ 10 scholarship players–which includes six returnees and four newcomers–includes national player of the year Oscar TshiebweSEC assist leader and starting point guard Sahvir Wheelerreserve forwards Jacob Toppin, Lance Ware and Daimion Collinsand sharpshooter CJ Fredrickwho missed last season with a hamstring injury.
In all, UK returns 42.8% of its minutes, 44.3% of its points, 58.4% of its rebounds, 53.8% of its assists, 72.9% of its blocks, and 50% of its steals from a team that spent much of the reason ranked inside the top 5 and won 26 games before suffering a stunning upset loss to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s, who went on to reach the Elite 8.
During the regular season, Kentucky defeated the two teams that played for the national championship–Kansas and North Carolina–by a combined 47 points.
“I’m not revenge filled or out to prove something. But just knowing we’ve got kids that came back so now let’s make this something special,” head coach John Calipari said. “The whole thing is that I want these guys to know, ‘Yeah, I’m pissed that we lost this game, but my mindset is where are we going with this? How do we use it as fuel?”‘
The Wildcats also add a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans in Chris Livingston and Cason Wallaceas well as 4-star Pittsburgh guard Adou Thieroand high-scoring Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeveswho averaged over 20 points per game for the Redbirds last season.
In his most recent NCAA Tournament projections, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi tabbed the Wildcats as a No. 1 seed, Seth Davis of The Athletic ranked Kentucky as his preseason No. 1 team, and BetOnline made UK the betting favorite at 8-1 to win the national championship.
Kentucky’s confirmed non-conference opponents for 2022-23 include Michigan State in the Champions Classic, Michigan in London (Dec. 4), UCLA in the CBS Sports Sports Classic (Dec. 17), Louisville at Rupp Arena on Dec. 31 and Duquesne at Rupp Arena (TBA). UK is also expected to host Bellarmine for a non-conference matchup at Rupp Arena (TBA).