3 Wildcats that Kentucky basketball needs to bring back for the 2024-25 season

Kentucky basketball needs to get older. John Calipari knows this, and he can start by retaining some of the young talent he's brought to Lexington over the past few years, before attacking the transfer portal.

Kentucky guard Justin Edwards (1) and Kentucky forward Adou Thiero (3)
Kentucky guard Justin Edwards (1) and Kentucky forward Adou Thiero (3) / Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY
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player. 6'8" 203 lbs. Justin Edwards, F. 1. 528. Justin Edwards. Justin Edwards, F. . Freshman.

You may be noticing a theme of prioritizing Kentucky’s primary defensive stoppers over offensive creators, but what about a player who could develop into both? Justin Edwards left a lot to be desired in his freshman season, dropping from a possible No. 1 overall NBA draft pick to out of the first-round conversation with his play. However, the talent is still there and even on a team with a lot of ball-dominant guards, Edwards started to break through in the second half of the year. 

With a 6-foot-8 frame, Edwards accepted his role as a wing defender and was more than serviceable. Next year, Calipari needs Edwards to take another step on the offensive end and the groundwork was laid over the final five games of this past season when he averaged 13.2 points compared to 8.8 for the year. 

While there wasn’t much to his game as an on-ball creator, with a 25th percentile assist to usage rate and 26th percentile free throw attempt rate, Edwards was efficient as a scorer. He posted a 77th percentile true shooting percentage of 58.6%, shot 36.5% from three on 2.7 attempts per game, and scored 22.1% of his points off second chances. 

Edwards almost certainly came into the year expecting to be the star and primary offensive creator, but once he realized that wasn’t going to happen, he settled into his role nicely as a three-and-D wing who attacks the offensive boards and runs in transition. There’s more talent left for the former five-star to tap into, and for all his flaws as a gameday decision-maker, Calipari might be the perfect head coach to develop Edwards into a star.

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