3 Kentucky basketball players who probably won’t be back next season

We now know that John Calipari will be Kentucky's head coach in 2024-25, but who will be on his roster, and who will be off to the NBA Draft this summer?
Kentucky Wildcats guards Rob Dillingham (0) and Reed Sheppard (15)
Kentucky Wildcats guards Rob Dillingham (0) and Reed Sheppard (15) / Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
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John Calipari is coming back to Kentucky for Year 16. Mitch Barnhart made that clear on Tuesday night after a conversation with his men’s basketball program’s head coach. But no matter how confident the school’s athletic director sounds about the direction of Kentucky basketball under Coach Cal, the seat is hot and only getting hotter. 

If it wasn’t for a $33 million buyout, then Calipari might already be out, but instead, Barnhart has to take the 65-year-old at his word that changes are coming to his roster construction. College basketball got a lot older, seemingly overnight, and the wave of veterans with covid eligibility, capitalizing on NIL dollars and the transfer portal, brought the one-and-done era to its knees. 

Yet, Calipari, the preeminent one-and-done head coach, built his 2023-24 roster with eight freshmen and four sophomores and it failed massively in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The worst part for Kentucky is, that the best pieces of this year’s team are heading out the door. Tre Mitchell and Antonio Reeves are out of eligibility, but they aren’t the only Wildcats who won’t be back next season. 

DJ Wagner. 3. . 528. Freshman. 6'4" 192 lbs. . DJ Wagner, PG. DJ Wagner, PG. player

Wagner won’t be heading to the NBA after a disappointing freshman year, but he may not return to Kentucky either. The former five-star started over Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham despite shooting 40.5% from the field and under 30% from three. 

It was so glaringly obvious at the start of games, that Kentucky was desperate to get Wagner to the bench and Sheppard on the floor, yet Calipari continued to pencil his name into the starting five and spot the other team a lead. I have no doubt that Wagner has the talent to develop into a quality starting point guard in college basketball, and Cal’s overly kind assessment of his play could be the reason that he stays in Lexington, but it feels like a fresh start is in order for both sides. 

Wagner showed that potential multiple times this season, but he was at his best early in the year, like his 28-point performance against Marshall. Though once Sheppard and Dillingham cemented themselves as the superior players, Wagner’s play cratered and it felt like he was put in a tough position, the obvious target of criticism, starting over the two most exciting players on the roster.