2023-24 Kentucky basketball roster preview: Wings/forwards

Jul 16, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; USA-Kentucky guard Justin Edwards (1) dunks against Canada during the second half of the Men's Gold game at Mattamy Athletic Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 16, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; USA-Kentucky guard Justin Edwards (1) dunks against Canada during the second half of the Men's Gold game at Mattamy Athletic Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

For the second installment of the Kentucky basketball roster preview, we look at the wings and forwards.

This is perhaps the most overlooked position group on the roster, but vital to the success of the season. In the new era of position-less basketball, the versatility of this group should provide lineup combinations to give coach Calipari more options on the court than we have seen in recent seasons.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we will preview the 2023-24 Kentucky basketball roster by position groups.

Forwards (4)

Adou Thiero:

  • Sophomore
  • Key 2022-23 stats: 20 total games played, 2.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG

Thiero was a late addition to the roster going into his freshman season. Thiero’s father, Almamy, played three seasons for coach Cal at Memphis.

Much has been made about his physical growth since the conclusion of his senior season at Quaker Valley in Leetsdale, Pennsylvania. His recruiting profile lists him generously at 6-5, weighing in at 180 pounds. The official Kentucky basketball roster lists him now at 6-6, weighing 200 pounds. Regardless, Thiero’s versatility gives him the rare ability to play any position – guard, wing, or forward.

Thiero showcased his defensive abilities during the Bahama tour last season. He wowed fans at the annual Blue-White game in Pikeville while stuffing the stat sheet with 21 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, and multiple blocks. Despite the early success in the preseason, he never had that “breakout” game in the regular season.

Expectations are fairly lofty for Thiero’s sophomore season. He has been penciled in as a day 1 starter by several pundits in the media space. We saw flashes of improvements at the Globl Jam event over the summer. Fans are anxiously awaiting Theiro’s full skillset to be unleashed this season. Unfortunately, Theiro suffered a rolled ankle at Kentucky’s Pro Day event and did not finish the practice.

Justin Edwards:

  • #3 Recruit (247 Sports Composite)

Edwards is a dynamic athlete with a skill set that excels in space. Edwards was the top recruit for Calipari’s highest recruiting class since 2011 with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilcrest. He is listed at 6-8, weighing just under 200 pounds. Edwards is a left-hand dominant and likes to operate from the left wing.

As we saw at Globl Jam, his ability to score at all three levels can take over games on the offensive end. Although he might be slightly undersized by SEC standards, his athleticism and length give him the confidence to compete and fight on the defensive end.

As mentioned in the preview of Kentucky’s guards, we expect DJ Wagner to have the ball in his hands as a distributor and playmaker. Antonio Reeves is a proven, knockdown outside shooter and requires full attention from the defense. Although it might be hard to imagine Justin Edwards as your third option, he should settle in nicely in Calipari’s space and pace dribble-drive offense.

Jordan Burks:

  • #178 Recruit (247 Sports Composite)

Burks is still relatively new to the roster and the fanbase. He completed his senior season of high school at Overtime Elite where he led the league in scoring at just over twenty-seven points per game. He officially joined the roster only a few days prior to the Globl Jam tour. As expected, his minutes were limited and he did not make much of an impact.

After learning from Calipari at Kentucky’s Pro Day that our two dynamic bigs, Aaron Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso, are still recovering from foot surgeries, Burks is expected to have an immediate role early in the season. His size and length will be counted on as he will be competing against wings, forwards, and centers who hope to expose his inexperience at the collegiate level.

Brennan Canada:

  • Graduate Senior

Objectively, Canada has experienced some of the most challenging circumstances any Kentucky basketball player has faced. He joined the team as a walk-on student-athlete in the fall of 2019. Canada came in with a star-studded freshman class that included, Tyrese Maxey, Keion Brooks, Johnny Juzang, Kahlil Whitney, and Zan Payne. Looking back on that team, Calipari’s team finished the regular season with an overall record of 25-6 and 15-3 in conference play. Unfortunately, this team did not get a chance to compete in the NCAA Tournament due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.

The following season was one that Kentucky fans wanted erased from their minds. They finished 9-16 and did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, the program endured two impossible circumstances with the passing of dual-sport athlete Ben Jordan, and top prospect and NBA-bound Terrance Clarke.

Canada’s junior campaign ended with a gut-wrenching loss to the 15-seed St. Peter’s Peacocks. In Jan. 2023, Coach Calipari acknowledged Canada’s commitment to the program during his tenure and awarded him a full scholarship to cover his senior season.