Mark Pope can’t be done adding to the frontcourt after Kentucky lands Amari Williams

Kentucky needed a center after Aaron Bradshaw, Zvonimir Ivisic, and Ugonna Onyenso all bolted from Lexington, but Amari Williams from Drexel isn't enough to turn the Wildcats into a contender. His high school teammate, however, might be.
 Utah State Aggies forward Great Osobor (1)
Utah State Aggies forward Great Osobor (1) / Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky basketball program needed a change and that’s what Mark Pope represented. Instead of one-and-done freshman, Pope would target veteran transfers who are built to win games in March. Well, he delivered on that promise and delivered the three-time CAA Defensive Player of the Year, Amari Williams to Lexington. 

The former Drexel center has one year of eligibility remaining and last year averaged 12.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. At 6-foot-10 he’ll be a defensive anchor for Kentucky. Pope’s system, however, revolves around spacing and shooting, so perimeter players and three-point marksmen could be next on his offseason wishlist. Still, he shouldn’t be content in the frontcourt with just Williams. 

Kentucky is very thin at center with Aaron Bradshaw, Zvonimir Ivisic, and Ugonna Onyenso all departing. Williams fills a huge void, especially on the defensive end, but Kentucky needs another big who can provide some offense and passing. That could be Williams’s high school teammate from England, Great Osobor. The former Utah State big is reportedly set to visit Lexington. 

The 6-foot-8 forward was the Mountain West Player of the Year in his lone season with the Aggies. He followed Danny Sprinkle from Montana State, but Pope could pry him away from Sprinkle, now at Washington, for his final season of eligibility. 

Osobor averaged 17.7 and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 57.7% from the field and made about four trips to the free throw line a game. He was an offensive hub as a face-up big who excelled attacking off the dribble and in transition where he scored 13% of his points. He is also an excellent passer in the short-roll or out of the post-ups where 39% of his 17.7 points came from and he averaged 0.95 points per possession. 

Pope would be able to surround him with shooters and construct a highly efficient offense. Osobor averaged 2.8 assists for Utah State and would be able to identify cutters and shooters flying off screens. 

While he was dominant in the regular season, Osobor got swallowed up and frustrated by Zach Edey and Purdue in the NCAA Tournament. He was overmatched physically, so Osobor sliding to the four instead of playing center, which he often did for Sprinkle, could unlock his skill set in the SEC. 

Aly Khalifa is a much different player than Osobor, but he’s a perimeter big who often operated Pope’s offense at BYU from the top of the key and Osobor could be a more dynamic version of that. Williams on the other hand, got most of his offense out of the low post, which is not a common feature for Pope. Williams would end up in the dunker spot a lot, but he’s still an above-average passer. 

Playing high school ball across the pond isn’t the only thing Williams and Osobor have in common. Neither is a three-point shooter, Williams went just 1-3 from deep last season, and Osobor only 3-14. Meanwhile, BYU was putting up 32.0 threes a game, so Pope would need to stagger their minutes some and be creative in their shared minutes if he’s able to land Osobor. Though it’s another non-shooter, the upside of his offensive game is just too great for Pope to pass on him. 

There are other offseason priorities for Kentucky, like replacing Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham in the backcourt, but if Pope lands a frontcourt combination of Osobor and Williams, the Wildcats would instantly become one of the most intriguing teams in the country. With a few shooters, the Cats could be an SEC contender. 

Without Osobor, Kentucky’s frontcourt will look very similar to last season when Onyenso was starting at the five, a great defensive weapon who is limited offensively. Even with an elite group of guards, that wasn’t good enough to get out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament. If Pope wants the first tournament win of his career, Osobor might be the answer.