Kentucky Basketball: What Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso offers Wildcats

Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso makes it official by joining Kentucky Basketball for the upcoming season. Should anything be expected of the freshman center?

Kentucky Basketball has another top-10 recruiting class for the upcoming season, led by five-star prospects, Chris Livington and Cason Wallace. The program also landed three-star guard Adou Thiero, who is more of a long-term project rather than an immediate contributor.

Speaking of “projects” they got a late commitment from Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso, a 7’1 center who recently reclassified to join the 2022 class.

Kingsley Onyenso was formerly listed as a five-star recruit in the 2023 class before moving up. For 247sportsComposite, he’s now in the top 40 overall. Still a quality pickup for the Wildcats, who adds more depth to the frontcourt.

The question will be whether or not Kingsley Onyenso even plays next season, or is a redshirt candidate. Kentucky Basketball already has arguably the best center in the country next season in Oscar Tshiebwe, who averaged 17.4 ppg and 15.2 ppg en route to winning National Player of the Year. He played on averaged 32 mpg in 34 games started so that would leave eight minutes as his backup available.

Last season, Tshiebwe’s backup at center was Daimion Collins, a former top-20 overall recruit that averaged 2.9 ppg and 2.0 rpg in 7.4 mpg last season. He’s a solid role player but doesn’t do much special and there’s a case that the Wildcats could be better served with the newest big man on the roster.

What Kingsley Onyenso does best is on the defensive end. He’s already an elite shot-blocker and interior defender with great instincts. The center’s size and mobility allow him to cause havoc on defense and although Tshiebwe did block a career-high 55 shots last season, he still wouldn’t be considered an elite “defender” by any means.

Whether he plays next season in “spot minutes” as a backup or gets a redshirt and develops in practice, Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso will be a very impactful player for Kentucky Basketball in the near future. And considering how elite the 2023 class is shaping up to be for the program, they look to have the center position handled no matter what.