Kentucky basketball: Who will lead the Wildcats in scoring next season?

SPRINGFIELD, MA - JANUARY 15: Keldon Johnson
SPRINGFIELD, MA - JANUARY 15: Keldon Johnson /

With Kevin Knox leaving the Kentucky basketball program to pursue his NBA dreams, the Cats will be without their leading scorer once again. Of the assumed returnees and new additions, who will be UK’s leading scorer next season?

Kevin Knox declared for the NBA Draft today. The Kentucky basketball team has had a different leading scorer for the past 12 seasons. Knox’s departure will mean 2018-19 will usher in a new leading scorer for the 13th consecutive season. Now, the question becomes, who’s it going to be?

First, let’s assume that both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo are headed to the NBA Draft. Neither has committed one way or the other, but the betting money is on both leaving Kentucky. According to, Shai is a likely lottery pick and Diallo will be selected in the second-round.

Returning players

PJ Washington put his name into the NBA Draft earlier this week. However, given current draft projections and the fact Washington has not signed with an agent, there’s a favorable chance PJ returns to UK next season.

Jarred Vanderbilt is another outlier. Vanderbilt has yet to make intentions known, but like Washington, he is not highly ranked on NBA Draft boards. His injury history only lessens his ability to a first-round draft pick.

More from Kentucky basketball

Both Washington and Vanderbilt, given their ability to score on the interior, could easily lead the Kentucky basketball team in scoring next season. Another year in John Calipari’s system will only the likelihood of Jarred or PJ leading the Wildcats next season.

Another player who is quite capable of taking up the mantle of lead dog for the Cats is Quade Green. Green even looked the part this last season. In 6 of the first 10 games last season, Green scored in double-figures, including a 21-point performance against East Tennessee State.

Green was one of Kentucky’s more accurate three-point shooters. On a team devoid of perimeter scoring, Green’s 38% from downtown was behind only Gilgeous-Alexander and Wenyen Gabriel.

Speaking of Wenyen Gabriel, the junior-to-be could be heavily relied upon next season. Depending on who stays, who goes and who joins, Gabriel’s role could take on much more significance in 2018-19. That being said, if E.J. Montgomery joins the Cats, and Washington and Vanderbilt stay, Gabriel’s playing time could take a hit.

Gabriel can catch fire, as he proved with a 7-for-7 performance from distance against Alabama in the SEC Tournament. However, he’s typically been all or nothing when it comes to scoring. Wenyen will have to become much more consistent if he’s going to be the Cats leading scorer next season.


While most people will be focusing on the potential returning players for the Kentucky basketball team, there’s a high probability UK’s leading scorer will be a freshman.

Kevin Knox, Malik Monk, Jamal Murray, Julius Randle, Archie Goodwin, Anthony Davis, Brandon Knight and John Wall have all been Kentucky’s leading scorers during their freshman year’s at UK. In fact, Aaron Harrison is the only non-freshman to lead the Cats in scoring during John Calipari’s tenure.

The one newcomer who can fill it up is Keldon Johnson. The McDonald’s All-American is a 6’6″ shooting guard who can also play the small forward position. Expect to see Johnson find his way into the starting lineup from Day 1 on campus.

Johnson also plays great defense, which will translate into a lot of playing time for Coach Cal. With Knox gone, and Gilgeous-Alexander and Diallo likely to follow, Green will be the only veteran in the backcourt. Johnson will get a lot of opportunities to be the Cats go-to guy.

Tyler Herro is an interesting possibility to be UK’s leading scorer next season. Yes, he’s a freshman. Yes, he’s only a 4-star recruit. Guess what? So was Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Herro is not just a three-point shooter, but it doesn’t hurt that he can knock down the triple.

Until all the dust is settled and we know who will be suiting up for the Cats in 2018-19, there are more questions than answers. But, one thing is for sure, Knox’s departure guarantees a new leading scorer for the Wildcats next season.