Nigerian Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso added to Kentucky men’s basketball
…top 25 overall prospects to reclassify, join Wildcats in 2022-23
Ugonna Kingsley Onyenso, a Nigerian imposing frontcourt first-year player in the 2023 class has signed with the Kentucky men’s basketball programme and will be reclassified to join the 2022-23 roster.
Onyenso with this record will now be the fourth first-year player to sign with the Wildcats for the upcoming season, joining the likes of Chris Livingston, Adou Thiero, and Cason Wallace.
John Calipari, the head coach of the University of Kentucky (UK) men’s team speaking on the exploits of Ugonna Onyenso said the young Nigerian has unbelievable natural athleticism and wants to make history with the UK team.
“What excited me most about Ugonna is that he wanted to not only be here but wanted to be here to train with us and learn from guys like Oscar (Tshiebwe) and Lance (Ware) immediately and help us chase a national title.
“Ugonna has unbelievable natural athleticism and great instincts for a young player. He is going to be able to defend at the rim and is a terrific finisher. Ugonna has only been in the United States since January but has been fully immersed in basketball for several years with his experience at the NBA Academy in Africa.
“The staff and I are excited to help push him every day in a competitive and focused environment as he continues to improve and become the best version of himself both on and off the floor,” Calipari said.
The 6-foot-11, 225-pound Imo State born basket player with the size and speed to wreak havoc in the paint on both ends of the court said his frame allows him to impose his will in the paint, and that he has the potential to develop into an elite rebounder and shot blocker with terrific natural instincts.
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“I’m proud to join the Kentucky basketball family and I can’t wait to help work for a national championship.
“I’m so comfortable with Coach Cal and the staff and I know they will help me reach my goals as long as I work hard and come to play every day.
“I’m excited for the UK’s position-less style of play and I know I’m going to continue to get better because I’ll be pushed every day in practice with players who have the same drive that I do. I can’t wait to get to campus in August and get started,” Onyenso said.
Onyenso, a native of Owerri in the Imo State of Nigeria spent the past season at Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut, the same programme that former Wildcat Hamidou Diallo hailed from.
With his reclassification, Onyenso is ranked in the top 35 by Rivals in the 2022 class and in the top 40 by 247 sports. He was rated in the top 25 by both outlets while in the 2023 class.
While in Putnam, Onyenso averaged 11.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 5.7 blocks per game. His shot 64.4percent from the floor and had five games with at least 10 blocked shots. The highlight of his season was a 24-point, 11-rebound, and 11-block triple-double.
Playing at the NBA Academy Games this summer, Onyenso scored in double figures in each of the six games he appeared in. He averaged 13.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game, while also connecting on 64.4percent of his field-goal attempts.
Onyenso was particularly good on the offensive glass, registering 32 total boards, 5.3 per game on that end; becoming one of the youngest players ever to make the senior men’s Nigerian National Team.
The gifted Nigerian basket player made his debut with the team at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African qualifiers in November of 2021. He scored 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting and had four rebounds and two blocks in 16 minutes in a 96-69 win over Uganda.
Ike Diogu, the veteran Nigerian basketball superstar applauded Onyenso following his performance.
“He is the future. Plain and simple. I’m telling you guys now. He’s the future,” Diogu said.