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Mark Pope on 13th scholarship: "We're going to find it."

Jack PIlgrimby:Jack Pilgrim06/25/24

Are you a media member covering the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program? Do you think you have what it takes to be a Wildcat? Mark Pope has the perfect opportunity for you.

With one scholarship spot remaining to wrap up his debut roster in Lexington, the first-year head coach said he’ll be hosting tryouts to decide who gets it.

“We’re having open media tryouts next week to see if any of you guys want a shot at that last scholarship,” Pope told KSR on Tuesday. “There are a lot of laughs, but also some eager eyes! Some of you guys are paying attention right now, like, ‘Oh, OK! I’ll dust off the shoes, let’s go!'”

He was very clearly kidding — hopefully, at least. We’re all screwed if not.

In all seriousness, though, Pope says Kentucky is in no rush to fill that spot and things remain the same today as they were a few weeks ago. They’re going to find the right fit at some point, early practices confirming what they’ve been looking for the entire time.

“No, it’s still the same. I think we had a pretty good feel of where we were a couple weeks ago and it’s just been confirmed for us more than anything else,” he said. “We’re going to find it. There could be 100 different reasons why a 13th scholarship would fit.”

Some potential options? As we saw with Zvonimir Ivisic last summer, the international path is one Kentucky could take to find No. 13. Those typically present themselves in July and August. Elsewhere, Pope adds that “unique things” unfold in the late summer months — maybe reclass possibilities?

They haven’t nailed down any specific targets or top priorities, but the general plan is in place, one we likely won’t see come together for another month or two.

“We’re still kind of floating with it and we’ll see. We’ll spend a ton of time this summer on the road where it’s legal, including some international things,” Pope told KSR. “There are always unique things that happen there late. There are also always some interesting things that happen late these days. We’ll kind of play it by ear.”

Pope previously called the 13th scholarship a “floating piece,” one they’d be patient on as the dust settles this offseason.

“The way we envision it is, it could be a place for a young player, it could be a place for a more senior player that is gonna take a redshirt year, it could be a place for a project, or it could be a place for maybe a high-risk guy,” the Kentucky head coach said.

He later called it a “massively important piece,” one they’d “be a little bit creative” in their search for it.

“It’s going to fit really, really well,” Pope added.

Who will fill it? We’ll find out in the coming months.

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