All six of the Kentucky men’s basketball seniors intend to participate in Wednesday’s Senior Day, but that doesn’t mean they won’t return to Lexington for another season.
UK announced on Monday that Oscar Tshiebwe, Jacob Toppin, CJ Fredrick (redshirt), Sahvir Wheeler, Antonio Reeves, and Brennan Canada will all go through with Senior Day festivities, which will take place shortly before Kentucky’s 7:00 p.m. EST showdown against Vanderbilt inside Rupp Arena on the SEC Network. All six Wildcats technically have one more season of college eligibility remaining due to the extra year granted by the NCAA as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That being said, UK states that decisions regarding whether or not any of the six returns for the 2023-24 season “will be made at a later date.” The trio of Tshiebwe, Toppin, and Canada will speak with the media on Tuesday morning to preview what’s to come for Wednesday’s Senior Day.
Keep in mind that Kentucky has had multiple instances over the last couple of years where players have gone through Senior Day but returned for another season anyways. Men’s basketball’s Davion Mintz and football’s JJ Weaver are two prime examples of that.
Late last week, ahead of Kentucky’s 32-point win over Auburn on Saturday, junior forward Lance Ware spoke about the emotions he expects to see at this year’s Senior Day.
“I think Jacob (Toppin), Oscar (Tshiebwe), CJ (Fredrick), it’ll be emotional,” Ware said last Friday. “I think it’ll be really emotional for Jacob and Oscar. Obviously, Oscar loves this place and I can’t wait to see what the crowd is like when he gets called. It’s going to be crazy. But the same with Jacob. They poured their heart and soul into this program.”
John Calipari-led UK teams haven’t typically had many seniors on the roster, but this season’s group is an outlier. Calipari has never had more than four of his players go through Senior Day in one year (and this year’s six seniors will actually be the program’s most since 1975).
A handful of this season’s seniors, particularly Tshiebwe and Toppin, have been in Lexington for multiple years now and have made significant impacts on and off the court during their time. Canada is the longest-tenured of the six, having arrived as a freshman walk-on in 2019-20 before making his way onto scholarship this season.
As of right now, there is no real sense as to which way any of the six are leaning. Tshiebwe is the only one currently on NBA mock draft boards as a potential late second-rounder. Toppin came into the season hoping to make that leap to the pros, but he’s only just begun to play up to that potential over the last few weeks. None of Reeves, Fredrick, or Wheeler are projected to get drafted this summer and all could benefit from another season in college.
It’ll likely be a while before we learn of these decisions, so we might as well enjoy this group of veterans while they’re still here. Wednesday night at Rupp should be a load of fun.