Kentucky adds top center to prized 2022 class

Top-50 center Ugonna Kingsley-Onyenso announced his commitment to Kentucky on Monday, choosing the Wildcats over a final list that also included Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tennessee.

Kingsley-Onyenso confirmed last month his intentions to reclassify into the 2022 class; he will arrive in Lexington for the upcoming men’s basketball season, although it’s unclear whether he will suit up for Kentucky right away. He took an official visit to Oklahoma State in late June, then tripped to Kentucky and Oklahoma in late July.

A 6-foot-11 center from Nigeria who attended Putnam Science Academy (Connecticut), Kingsley-Onyenso was ranked No. 35 overall in the ESPN 100 for 2023, slotting in as the No. 3 center in the class. He impressed at the NBA Academy events over the past couple of years, and was also invited to the Pangos All-American Camp in June.

“Kingsley-Onyenso is a high-level shot-blocker and rim protector,” said Paul Biancardi, ESPN’s national recruiting director for boys’ high school basketball. “His physical measurables are eye-popping, standing at 6-11 with a 7-5 wingspan and 9-10.5 standing reach. He takes long strides, has vertical explosiveness and moves his feet very well laterally. He could provide excellent drop coverage in ball-screen defense and has the mobility and agility to hard-hedge and even switch. His defensive instincts are in place and ahead of his offensive game.

“He scores best inside finishing lobs, drop-off passes and rolling to the rim. What makes his potential so intriguing are his developing touch and scoring moves. The next steps are to improve with his back to the basket and then get a short face-up drive and jumper against a set defense.”

John Calipari has now likely wrapped up his 2022 recruiting class. Kingsley-Onyenso joins five-star prospects Chris Livingston and Cason Wallace, as well as four-star small forward Adou Thiero. If he doesn’t redshirt for the 2022-23 campaign, he should provide a defensive presence on the interior behind National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe and former five-star prospect Daimion Collins.

Kentucky is ranked No. 4 in ESPN’s latest Way-Too-Early Top 25.

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