kentucky point guard Sahvir Wheeler officially announced he will return next season.
Starting 29 of 30 games for the Wildcats as a junior this season, Wheeler averaged 10.1 points, 6.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game en route to earning Second Team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches.
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Wheeler, who led the SEC and ranked third nationally in assists per game, was named one of five finalists for the Bob Cousy Award presented to college basketball’s top point guard.
He scored in double figures in 16 games, with five double-figure assist games and two double-doubles. He had 16 points and 10 assists in the season opener vs. Duke, 12 points and 14 assists vs. North Florida, a career-high 26 points, 8 assists and 4 steals in a win over North Carolina, and 21 points and 8 assists against Tennessee in a January home win.
During an appearance on Sports Talk with UK Hall of Famers Dan Issel and Mike Pratt Friday, head coach John Calipari called Wheeler a difference maker
“Let me say this: Most of this stuff is a small group but they were on Sahvir because of that last game. Do you remember Sahvir against North Carolina? And against Kansas, how he played? He had a hell of a year until he got injured and then he gained some weight, he didn’t play as well, but he’s still that guy,” Calipari said. “And I told him, ‘If I can get you right and get you steady in who you are and keep improving, because he’s improved, I said, ‘You’re the difference in this stuff.'”
Wheeler is the fourth Kentucky player to confirm a return for next season, joining unanimous national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe, guard and Iowa transfer CJ Fredrick, forward and former McDonald’s All-American Daimion Collins.
After the way it ended–with a loss to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament–it’s easy to forget that Kentucky (26-8) was a top-5 team for much of the 2021- 22 season and defeated Kansas and North Carolina–the two teams that played for the national title–by a combined 47 points during the regular season.
UK loses guards Kellan Grady and Davion Mintz to graduate and forwards Dontaie Allen and Bryce Hopkins have each entered the transfer portal. Ty Ty Washington, Keion Brooks, Jacob Toppin and Shaedon Sharpe have entered the 2022 NBA Draft, with Brooks, Toppin, and Sharpe maintaining their eligibility.
Kentucky is widely projected as a top 5 team heading into next season.
“With Sahvir and CJ and Cason [Wallace] and Chris [Livingston] and Jacob and Daimion, Lance [Ware] and Oscar, wow,” Calipari said. “We bring in somebody, he’s gotta be that guy. He’s gotta be one of us. We have great teammates. I loved coaching that team last year. Loved it.”