22 July 2024

By pretty much all accounts, Mark Pope did about as well as could be expected during the first three weeks of his tenure as the men’s basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.

 

From his electric introduction at Rupp Arena to the built-from-scratch nature of putting together the Wildcats’ next roster and coaching staff, Pope has been receiving high marks from the college basketball community.

 

“He’s done a really good job,” 247Sports national analyst Travis Branham told the Herald-Leader. “Especially when you add in the piecing together of the staff in that same time frame. … So the fact that he’s been able to get — not just the quantity of guys — but it’s good quality. A lot of good pieces that can mesh well together.”

Starting with zero returning scholarship players from John Calipari’s 2023-24 UK roster — all 10 upperclassmen have entered the NBA draft or hit the transfer portal — and with none of the former Kentucky coach’s six incoming recruits fully committed to sticking around at the time of Pope’s introduction, the new guy was left with a major rebuilding job and not much time to do it.

 

Over a period of 15 days, Pope locked up commitments from two high school prospects — Collin Chandler, his top recruit at BYU; and Travis Perry, the only Calipari-era pledge to stay with UK — as well as seven transfers: West Virginia guard Kerr Kriisa, San Diego State guard Lamont Butler, Dayton guard Koby Brea, Oklahoma guard Otega Oweh, Wake Forest forward Andrew Carr, Drexel forward Amari Williams and Oklahoma State center Brandon Garrison.

 

The college basketball analytics website EvanMiya.com ranks that as the No. 3 transfer class in the country. 247Sports has the Cats at No. 5 nationally, as far as collective transfer rankings.

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