The situation for the Kentucky men’s basketball team at center is a mystery.
UK’s top options — highly touted freshman Aaron Bradshaw, intriguing sophomore Ugonna Onyenso and late summer addition Zvonimir Ivišić — are all currently out of the picture.
Bradshaw, a consensus five-star recruit, underwent a medical procedure for a foot injury in June and remains without a clear timeline for his return to full basketball activities.
In late August, Bradshaw took part in an Oscar Tshiebwe-led basketball camp in Lexington with a protective boot on his left foot.
Onyenso’s injury has even less clarity: He hurt a foot during UK’s summer trip to Canada for the GLOBL JAM exhibition tournament, and underwent surgery.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari said in mid-July that Onyenso had a “minor procedure” and would be sidelined for “a couple of months” as he recovered.
Ivišić — a 7-foot-2 Croatian who committed to Kentucky in early August — still isn’t in Lexington, and it looks less and less likely that he will be in a UK uniform this season.
Another element to all of this uncertainty? There’s a potential solution waiting in the wings.
UK’s lone class of 2024 commit is center Somto Cyril, a 6-foot-10 prospect (measurement via Overtime Elite) who is gearing up for his second season with the Atlanta-based program.
Cyril, a four-star recruit, has publicly said several times that he intends to stay in the 2024 recruiting class and see out his second season at Overtime Elite.
In a one-on-one interview with the Herald-Leader on Monday evening, Cyril reiterated this plan and seemed to keep the door closed on a potential early arrival in Lexington.
Cyril said, “No, I don’t think so” when asked by the Herald-Leader if he’s had any conversations with UK about enrolling ahead of schedule given the Wildcats’ uncertainty at center for the 2023-24 season.
“I really want to take my time. I want to go to Kentucky as a very beneficial option for them,” Cyril said. “I want to be ready when I go to Kentucky, and make sure I help them win. That’s the most important thing. So, it doesn’t really matter when.”
When asked if he feels “college ready” right now, Cyril said he wants to make sure he’s prepared mentally for the rigors of college hoops.
“It’s not going to be sunshine and rainbows every day,” Cyril said. “All of that stuff, it’s not going to always be easy. So I have to get ready for that too.”
Something Cyril made abundantly clear is that his decision — whether that involves enrolling early at UK or not — is a choice he is making with plenty of thought behind it.
“I don’t like to go back on my decisions,” Cyril said. “When I make my decisions, I stick to them.”
“At the end of the day, it’s just on me,” Cyril added. “It’s all on me. Whether it goes right or it goes wrong, it’s all on me. So I have to take my time, think about it, pray about it, do whatever I have to do about it. If it works out? Fine. It’s all on me that I made the right decision. If it goes wrong? It’s on me. I don’t have to put it on anybody.”
Cyril spends his summer focused on offensive improvement
Cyril committed to the Wildcats in June as a player known for his defensive impact and motor, but also with an emerging offensive game.
He’s made it his mission this summer to improve on offense.
Cyril told the Herald-Leader that he’s focused on everything this summer from dribble handoffs to setting screens to rolling to the basket.
“The team could run a play for me, and I can get my teammates involved,” said Cyril, who was born in Nigeria and moved to the United States in 2021.
This all communicates a sense of comfort for Cyril, who is set to play his second season at Overtime Elite without the complication of a college recruitment as part of the equation.
Cyril also praised his personal relationship with UK associate coach Orlando Antigua, and the way expectations are communicated to him from the Kentucky side of things.
“I can pretty much do whatever I need to do. They let me run the plays, call out plays for the point guards,” Cyril said of his growth at Overtime Elite.