NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Kentucky

Kentucky won big in its brief trip to Canada this past week while participating in the GLOBL JAM, where it returned home with the gold medal after winning all four games and gained valuable experience for an overhauled roster (while apparently hanging out at Drake's crib in the process). 

But it wasn't all big wins for Big Blue up north, as its frontcourt depth -- already a concern with five-star freshman Aaron Bradshaw undergoing surgery earlier this summer to address a fractured foot -- took a bigger hit with second-year breakout candidate Ugonna Onyenso sustaining a foot injury during practices leading up to the tournament.

UK coach John Calipari over the weekend hinted that Onyenso's injury, at first not seen as severe, was potentially more significant than initially feared and that he could be out "a while." 

Those fears were formally confirmed Tuesday, as Calipari tweeted that Onyenso will be out for "a couple of months."

"Nobody hated missing last week's games more than him and I know he's going to work his way back to once again have a positive impact on this team," Calipari tweeted.

So where do the 'Cats prowl from here as their rotation of bigs -- once seen as a potential strength even as it looks to replace a former national player of the year in Oscar Tshiebwe -- suddenly looks questionable at best and downright dicey at worst?

Here's how things could shake out, where things stand and an overview of the pedigree both incoming and already in-house:

Onyenso's bona fides

In Kentucky's sixth-ranked recruiting class in 2022, Onyenso was an under-the-radar piece who ranked as the third-highest ranked prospect of four high school commits and a four-star talent, the result of reclassifying from the 2023 class to the 2022 class somewhat late in the cycle. At 7-feet tall and pushing 240 pounds, he sparsely saw playing time last season, appearing in 16 games and averaging 2.5 points and 1.0 blocks per game. Extrapolated out to a per-40 minute stat line, though, his 14.4 points, 5.8 blocks and 15.1 rebounds per game averages suggested the flashes could present real upside for him in a bigger role.

Onyenso entered the transfer portal earlier this offseason likely in search of such a role, but in the spring, he announced he was returning to UK and had removed his name from the portal in a rare return from portal land.

Bradshaw's injury looms large

Rumors of a potential foot injury to big man Aaron Bradshaw -- the second-highest ranked recruit in UK's No. 1-ranked incoming class and a five-star, top-five talent in the 2023 class -- were confirmed by Calipari in June when he told reporters that Bradshaw underwent surgery to repair a fractured foot. That was the first big hit to UK's stacked frontcourt. Calipari said at the time that the surgery would not preclude him from returning in time for the season, but seemed to leave the door open that he could be worked back slowly.

Kentucky's plans for the 5

With Bradshaw out indefinitely and Onyenso out for months, UK now has several paths to fill out its roster at the 5 spot. The most likely Band-Aid fix is simply slotting West Virginia transfer Tre Mitchell -- who played some center during UK's trip in Canada -- in that spot. Calipari said he liked what Mitchell brought to the table as a floor-spacing big, and seemed to hint that exploring doing that in a more expanded role could be beneficial. Now, it seems necessary.

Kentucky may also build out its depth via either the portal or -- similar to how Onyenso landed at Kentucky -- by convincing a big to reclassify. What remains in the portal is not ideal, but it's not impossible to think that could change ... especially if an opportunity at Kentucky opens up. 2024 recruit Somto Cyril, a four-star center, could also potentially reclassify to 2023, an option that had previously been explored.