Key outgoing Kentucky transfer weighs Lexington return vs. Calipari reunion

Adou Thiero has cut down his list of potential suitors to five finalists and while he left the door open to joining Mark Pope's new regime, Arkansas looms as the top competition for the rising junior.
Kentucky Wildcats guard Adou Thiero (3)
Kentucky Wildcats guard Adou Thiero (3) / Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Even before John Calipari left for Fayetteville and Mark Pope was named as his successor, Adou Thiero was the first Kentucky Wildcat from the 2023-24 roster to enter the transfer portal. However, the rising junior always left the possibility of a return on the table, and now that he’s nearing a decision, that looks more likely than ever. 

The 6-foot-8 222-pound wing instantly became one of the hottest commodities on the open market once he announced his decision after Kentucky’s loss to Oakland. While he was never a top recruit or leading scorer, his departure felt like a crucial blow to the program. Kentucky struggled to get stops last season and Thiero was one of the few above-average defenders on the roster.

Kentucky has already lost Zvonimir Ivisic to Calipari’s Razorbacks and Aaron Bradshaw to Ohio State. D.J. Wagner is also in the transfer portal, unlikely to return to the program, and on Thursday, Reed Sheppard declared for the NBA draft. Expectedly, Kentucky’s roster is being gutted, so re-recruiting Thiero, a familiar face to the fans, would be a big win for Pope in his first offseason, especially considering the other teams that appear as finalists. 

Pitt is a natural inclusion for the Pittsburgh native, it wasn’t a surprise to see Jeff Capel get involved. North Carolina and Indiana appear to be outliers, but blue blood programs are always hard to turn down and Mike Woodson has been making serious noise this offseason. The biggest threat to a Thiero return, however, is a Thiero reunion with Coach Cal. 

While still assembling a staff and settling into his new/old home, Pope is going head to head with his predecessor. Cal already turned one Cat into a Hog, Pope can’t let me get many more.

Thiero, a 31.8% three-pointer shooter, may not be a perfect fit for Kentucky's new offensive system that prioritizes spacing and shooting. Still, his defense is important and the statement it would make if he chose Pope over Calipari would be invaluable.

While he's never won an NCAA Tournament game, Pope has already proven to be an on-court innovator who will bring fresh ideas to Lexington that Coach Cal refused to embrace. The biggest question mark is if he can bring the elite talent that Calipari constantly funneled into town. This could quell those concerns, for the time being.

Next. 5 transfers who could replace Reed Sheppard for Kentucky. 5 transfers who could replace Reed Sheppard for Kentucky. dark