What losing Adem Bona to UCLA means for Kentucky basketball recruiting in 2022 class

Jon Hale
Louisville Courier Journal
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LEXINGTON - Kentucky basketball's search for a big man for its 2022 recruiting class remains ongoing.

Five-star center Adem Bona committed to UCLA Monday morning over Kentucky, leaving John Calipari without either of his top post targets in the class. The Wildcats previously lost five-star center Dereck Lively to Duke.

Since Calipari has not offered another high school post player in the 2022 class, Kentucky will likely need to turn to the transfer portal to reinforce its 2022-23 frontcourt. That strategy has worked well for UK in recent years, but multiple defections from the current roster could make post depth an issue next season.

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Here is a closer look at the implications of Bona's decision.

Kentucky basketball 2022 recruiting class still strong

While Calipari has struggled to land a post commitment in the 2022 class, the Wildcats' backcourt commitments are unrivaled.

Kentucky holds pledges from five-star guards Shaedon Sharpe, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the class, Chris Livingston and Skyy Clarke. Texas prep guard Cason Wallace is expected to give Kentucky it's third consensus top-10-ranked prospect in the class when he announces his college commitment on Nov. 7.

A commitment from Wallace would put Kentucky in a tight race with Duke for the top-ranked class in the 2022 cycle.

All eyes on transfer portal

Even as his current team enters a season with a roster built around Division I transfers, Calipari has continued to downplay the importance of the transfer portal for his roster-building strategy.

"In a normal year, like if this class finishes like I think it's going to finish, the only way we take a transfer is if we have a roster of nine players," Calipari said at UK's media day in October. "...You need a warmup line. You've got to have like enough where you can have a couple balls. So okay, then maybe we take a transfer. If we miss on a kid, then maybe we take a transfer."

Mining the transfer market for older, more physical post players has been a productive strategy for Kentucky, especially as many of his top high school post signees in recent years have needed time to adjust to the college game.

Reid Travis was a star for Kentucky after transferring from Stanford. Nate Sestina was an important role player after transferring from Bucknell. Olivier Sarr was a starter last season after transferring from Wake Forest. Through the Blue-White Scrimmage and first preseason exhibition, West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe has looked like the current team's most indispensable player. 

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Kentucky's loaded backcourt should make the program an enticing option for the next group of big men to hit the transfer portal in the spring, but adding one transfer to the frontcourt might not be enough.

Calipari will also need at least a couple of the group of current post players (Tshiebwe, Daimion Collins, Keon Brooks, Lance Ware and Jacob Toppin) to return to school or he might need to add multiple transfers. Current freshman Bryce Hopkins would be another option to play the four next season, but thus far Calipari has used him as a wing.

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ

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