Hunter Dickinson is leaving Michigan. Is transfer portal’s top player interested in UK?

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Ears and eyes around the men’s college basketball world perked up Friday afternoon with the news that post player Hunter Dickinson was entering the NCAA transfer portal.

The three-year standout at Michigan instantly vaulted to the top of transfer portal talent boards with the news that he is seeking a new school to play for as a graduate transfer.

The 7-foot-1, left-handed Dickinson played in 94 games at Michigan, and was a reliable post presence with per-game averages of 17.2 points and 8.4 rebounds across his three seasons in Ann Arbor.

This season, Dickinson averaged 18.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists for a Michigan team that underwhelmed and eventually lost in the second round of the NIT to Vanderbilt.

Dickinson’s list of accolades is lengthy, and includes Second Team All-America honors in 2021 and recognition on an All-Big Ten team for three straight seasons.

While nothing concrete is in place, a few interested observers have already floated Kentucky’s name as a possible landing spot for the big man.

247Sports recruiting analyst Travis Branham was quick to remember that Dickinson took an unofficial visit to UK during his college recruitment, and said the connection between Dickinson and the Wildcats “could be something to watch.”

Kentucky had an up-close look at what Dickinson could provide last December, when the Wildcats and Wolverines faced off in a non-conference matchup in London.

Dickinson had 23 points and three blocks to lead all players in that game, which ended up as a four-point UK win.

Aside from any past relationship that existed between Calipari and Dickinson, there’s also some functional reasons to believe the Cats may kick the tires on bringing Dickinson to Lexington.

Kentucky’s frontcourt could find itself devoid of significant college experience next season.

Jacob Toppin announced earlier Friday that he would be entering his name into the 2023 NBA Draft.

No formal decision about their Kentucky future has come from Ugonna Onyenso, Oscar Tshiebwe or Lance Ware, Kentucky’s three other frontcourt players of consequence from last season.

Tshiebwe is currently considered likely to leave for a professional career. Onyenso — who reclassified to come to Kentucky a year early and played in 16 games last season — told the Herald-Leader this month that he would be returning to UK.

Ware is a veteran player who has the respect of his coaches and teammates, but isn’t likely to have a larger role next season without major offseason development.

This leaves incoming freshman center Aaron Bradshaw as the lone player Kentucky can currently count on down low.

An elite rim protector, Bradshaw has been steadily adding to his offensive game as a high school senior, something that was evident just a few days ago during McDonald’s All-American Game week.

Despite a first-round 2024 NBA Draft projection by ESPN, Bradshaw will still need to add strength to his more than 7-foot frame, and he inevitably figures to have growing pains while adapting to the college game.

It’s also fair to say that a completely freshman-led approach is not as successful in men’s college basketball as it once was.

Will there be room for Dickinson — a been-there, done-that college player who has reached the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 as the centerpiece player at a high-major school — to slot in?

Only time will tell.

While Dickinson’s name is now in the transfer portal, there’s no guarantee that he, or Kentucky, will have portal news anytime soon.

Last year, UK’s lone portal addition was Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves. Reeves committed to Kentucky on April 27. The offseason before that, UK landed Kellan Grady on March 29, CJ Fredrick on May 5 and Sahvir Wheeler on May 17.

The NCAA transfer portal closes May 11, but that date is only set for players to enter their names into the portal.

Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe (34) drives against 7-foot-1 Michigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) during their game last December in London.
Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe (34) drives against 7-foot-1 Michigan center Hunter Dickinson (1) during their game last December in London.

Keeping track of Kentucky basketball roster moves

Kentucky men’s basketball’s 2022-23 season ended just a few weeks ago, but plenty of roster activity has already happened with John Calipari’s Wildcats.

Here’s a brief breakdown of what’s taken place so far.

Coming: Kentucky men’s basketball has a five-player recruiting class for 2023.

Center Aaron Bradshaw, combo guard Robert Dillingham, small forward Justin Edwards, combo guard Reed Sheppard and combo guard DJ Wagner will all be arriving in Lexington in the coming weeks and months.

Four of these five players recently took part in the McDonald’s All-American Game, with Bradshaw and Wagner impressing in particular. Dillingham was not eligible for selection to the game due to his involvement at Overtime Elite.

This is the consensus No. 1-ranked college basketball recruiting class for 2023.

Going: A trio of Kentucky men’s basketball players have formally announced their plans to move on from the Kentucky program.

Sahvir Wheeler will be transferring out of the UK program. Wheeler didn’t play in UK’s final 11 games this season due to an ankle injury and recovery from a medical procedure.

Jacob Toppin has declared for the 2023 NBA Draft. Toppin started 31 games and played in 33 contests last season, with per-game averages of 12.4 points and 6.8 rebounds.

Cason Wallace has also declared for the 2023 NBA Draft. Wallace was an indispensable part of the Wildcats last season, starting 32 games and averaging 11.7 points per game while leading the Wildcats in total assists and total steals.

Returning: Four-year walk-on Brennan Canada — who has emerged as a key contributor behind the scenes for Kentucky — has announced that he will be returning to UK for a fifth and final season. Calipari put Canada on scholarship midway through the 2022-23 season.

Unclear: While Canada, Toppin and Wheeler have all announced their future plans, plenty of uncertainty remains for the other Kentucky scholarship players from a season ago.

All of them are eligible to return to college due to the extra year granted to all athletes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the 2020-21 season.

Thus far, no concrete announcement has been made by the following Wildcats: Daimion Collins, CJ Fredrick, Chris Livingston, Ugonna Onyenso, Antonio Reeves, Adou Thiero, Oscar Tshiebwe and Lance Ware.

College players must enter their names in the draft by April 23, and players who enter their names in the 2023 NBA Draft pool must remove themselves from consideration by 11:59 p.m. May 31 to retain their NCAA eligibility.

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