On the status of Kentucky basketball, the new coach of the Wildcats spoke extensively.

It’s been a month since Mark Pope arrived in Lexington, and the new Kentucky coach has significantly revamped the Wildcats’ roster. In the past four weeks, he secured seven transfers and signed small forward Trent Noah, adding to a recruiting class that includes four-star guard Travis Perry. In an interview with CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein, Pope discussed Kentucky’s current roster and his plans for the remaining scholarships.

“It was terrifying, but it actually turned out to be a real blessing that we got to start from scratch here,” Pope said. “We got to hand-pick guys that fit perfectly into the way that we play. I feel great about our roster right now. We have a couple of really, really important pieces that we still have to fit in. We’re at ten scholarships right now. I have two really, really important pieces that I have to add.”

During the interview, Pope also delved into his relationship with former head coach John Calipari and talked about scheduling a home-and-home series with St. John’s, aiming to bring Rick Pitino back to Rupp Arena, among other topics.

Pope stated the following regarding the status of the Kentucky basketball program:


NBA Draft projections for Kentucky Wildcats players


“This is the paradise of basketball. That you have the chance to come to the University of Kentucky and try your luck is nearly unimaginable. It’s overwhelming, thrilling, depleting, and taxing. There is an infinite list. It’s comparable to love, family, and home. 22,000 people attended the inaugural news conference that we held at Rupp Arena. This is the team for this state. It’s all of it. The benchmark is unachievable. Anything less than a title each year is not acceptable. Because of everything, it’s a lovely work.”

“This is the first year of a new project. However, the group we’ve put together has far more experience than last year’s team at BYU. These guys are proven assets, having made multiple NCAA Tournament appearances and hit game-winning shots to reach the national championship game. They’re seasoned players who have competed at the highest level for a long time. It was terrifying, but it turned out to be a real blessing that we could start from scratch here. We were able to hand-pick players who perfectly fit our playing style. We aim to expand on the style of play we had last year. I feel great about our roster right now. We still have a couple of crucial pieces to add. On paper, I love it.”


John Calipari's first Kentucky basketball platoon was unveiled on Monday


“Our first three signings were among the best defensive players in the country. These three are incredible veteran players who have proven themselves at the highest level. They are poised for tremendous growth in their games over the next several months. I have two of the top 10 backcourt defenders in the country and a top-five rim protector. We have the potential to dominate defensively. Koby Brea is an ideal fit for us, and Andrew Carr is just as perfect. We see him as a Lauri Markkanen-type player, a highly skilled three-level scorer. He’s going to be really special for us.”

“With Kerr Kriisa, we had a little vinegar and piss encounter. It’s been six years since I started recruiting him. Before he ever arrived at college, I was in Lithuania recruiting him. As good a young player as you can get on the front lines is Brandon Garrison. Superstar Collin Chandler is. He’s just a budding superstar. Pro basketball players Trent Noah and Travis Perry embody the spirit of Kentucky. I adore how well this team gels as a unit.”


He is an exceptional player. He has a genuine burst and stunning explosiveness for a 6-foot-6 man. He has suffered an incredibly beautiful stroke. The ball is just so soft at the rim when it is released from his hands. He patrols while flying about. He has a very good heart. He is very selfless. When you combine everything, I’m not sure to whom to relate it, but I can tell it’s the DNA of something very, very unique.”


Right now, we have ten scholarships available. I need to add two really, really crucial items. The 13th scholarship is a component that floats. A young player might find a home there. A senior player who plans to take a redshirt year may be able to use it. It might serve as a project location. Something for a high-risk guy, perhaps? We’re working very hard to fill these final two positions. It is currently a top priority.


“We both desire it. Sometimes scheduling can be really difficult. Both of us are attempting to navigate it. My true desire is for Coach Pitino to enter Rupp Arena with a limp. Is there a fan base that cherishes a coach more than Coach Pitino’s supporters do? They are ever so appreciative of what he accomplished here, year after year. In the eyes of his fans, he has become so iconic. Though I’m sure he is aware of it, I would really like to see him return to his building. I can’t wait to return to this building and defeat him. I’m trying to beat coach, and I’m dying, dying, dying. It is certain to occur. We have to sort out every last detail.”


“I’ll forever be grateful to Coach Cal. I’m thankful for what he did at my alma mater and for his contributions to college basketball and Kentucky basketball. I couldn’t appreciate it more. He’s been incredibly generous to me personally. There’s no reason for my heart not to be full of gratitude for him. He’s one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. Having him in this league is fantastic for basketball, Arkansas fans, and Big Blue Nation. It’s going to be a battle. Some things will become super personal. Competing against someone you don’t know is one thing, but competing against your brother is different. If you’ve done that in the backyard, it usually gets ugly because you love each other so much.”

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