Kentucky basketball hasn’t been at full strength this season. That didn’t change Tuesday.

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Through 18 games of this wildly entertaining Kentucky men’s basketball season, there’s still one thing the Wildcats have lacked: a roster at full strength.

A combination of injuries, recoveries from offseason medical procedures and one prolonged NCAA eligibility case have conspired to keep the No. 6-ranked Wildcats (14-4 overall, 4-2 SEC) from ever fielding a completely full strength group of players.

And that continued to be the case in Tuesday night’s surprising 79-62 loss at South Carolina.

Sophomore standout Adou Thiero — who had missed the last seven games for Kentucky with a lingering back injury — remained out for an eighth-consecutive game Tuesday.

On UK’s pregame radio show, Kentucky head coach John Calipari said Thiero is back in practice, but still isn’t ready to play in a game.

“I’m kind of saying why aren’t you playing?” Calipari said, adding that Thiero is back to dunking the ball during UK practices.

Kentucky didn’t shed any additional light on Thiero’s injury or timetable to return: “Adou Thiero remains out tonight,” a pregame social media post said.

Thiero’s continued absence meant Kentucky remained at less than full strength for an 18th game to start this season.

Freshman center sensation Zvonimir Ivisic had a high-profile college debut in Saturday night’s win over Georgia after missing the first 16 games of the season while awaiting word on his eligibility from the NCAA. And he’s far from the only UK player to have missed playing time during the 2023-24 campaign.

Fellow bigs Aaron Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso had their season debuts delayed until December while they recovered from offseason medical procedures. Freshman guard D.J. Wagner didn’t play in one of UK’s three losses this season (a shocking home defeat to UNC Wilmington in early December) due to an injury, which Calipari has since described as a high ankle sprain.

While Thiero will be the last of these pieces to return to action (he last played during the rivalry win at Louisville on Dec. 21), he has been trending toward getting back on the court.

On Saturday night, Calipari mentioned several times on UK radio both before and after the Georgia game that Thiero was back practicing with the Wildcats.

A photo posted on social media Monday confirmed this, with Thiero dressed out in a practice uniform along with his UK teammates.

Thiero has averaged 7.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game this season.

In addition to now missing UK’s last seven games, Thiero also missed UK’s second game of the season against Texas A&M-Commerce while in concussion protocol.

That absence was immediately followed by his best performance in a Kentucky jersey: He scored 16 points and gathered 13 rebounds against then-No. 1 Kansas in the Champions Classic.

UK assistant coach Chin Coleman discussed Kentucky’s season-long struggle with player availability issues during a Monday media session.

“We’ll figure it out. Coach Cal will figure it out. Because, you’ve got to think about it, we’ve essentially coached five different teams this season already,” Coleman said of what Kentucky’s rotation of players will look like going forward, before listing the various lineup combinations that UK has and hasn’t had access to this season.

“(Calipari) has done an unbelievable job with the pieces, who’s in (and) who’s out. And figuring it out. ... He’s the best at it for a reason, so he’ll figure it out.”

Kentucky sophomore Adou Thiero (3) has sat out seven consecutive games. Thiero has averaged 7.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game this season.
Kentucky sophomore Adou Thiero (3) has sat out seven consecutive games. Thiero has averaged 7.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game this season.