Kentucky, Mark Pope earn commitment from San Diego State transfer Lamont Butler

USATSI 22891014

Mark Pope made an unexpected trip to Las Vegas with his freshly assembled staff on Friday morning, and Kentucky’s new coach came back with a critical commitment. San Diego State transfer Lamont Butler, whom Pope and company visited in Vegas, was clearly and quickly sold on the Wildcats. Butler committed to UK on the spot, his grassroots coach, Ryan Silver, told The Athletic.

After Butler entered the transfer portal on Wednesday, “all the big schools reached out,” Silver said, “but Mark Pope just really prioritized him, got on a plane and flew out there to meet with him and his parents. They were very impressed with that, and what he had to say.”

Butler, a 6-foot-2 guard, started 102 games for the Aztecs, was an All-Mountain West selection in 2023 and the league’s defensive player of the year in 2024. He was a star in San Diego State’s run to the national championship game two seasons ago — he hit a game-winning shot in the semifinals — and averaged 9.3 points, 3.0 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals last season.

Landing a key piece of a program that made four straight NCAA Tournaments and won seven NCAA Tournament games in the last two seasons is a major win for Pope. Kentucky’s entire 2023-24 roster is gone, having either exhausted its eligibility, entered the NBA Draft or hit the portal. Only one of six 2024 recruits who’d committed to previous coach John Calipari — in-state star Travis Perry — stuck with the Wildcats.

So before the trip to Vegas, Pope’s roster consisted of Perry, former top-40 BYU commit Collin Chandler and 6-foot-10 Drexel transfer Amari Williams. Butler is arguably the biggest early recruiting victory yet for the new regime at Kentucky, but it’s just getting started.

“This is nuts,” Silver said late Friday afternoon, “because UK’s whole staff is on a plane headed back there and Aidan Mahaney is in Lexington waiting for them with Mark Fox.”

Mahaney is the star Saint Mary’s transfer guard who just arrived for his visit to Kentucky. Fox is the former head coach at Nevada, Georgia and California, recently hired as a special assistant to Pope at UK. Mahaney is another product of Silver’s West Coast Elite grassroots program. Asked if the Wildcats have a serious shot at landing him, too, Silver said, “Yes, absolutely.”

Kentucky also hosted starting Oklahoma guard Otega Oweh on a visit this week and could get a commitment from him any day. Oweh is a 6-5, 210-pound wing who averaged 11.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.5 steals and shot 38 percent from 3-point range last season.

Other upcoming visitors: 6-foot-9 Wake Forest transfer Andrew Carr (13.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg) this weekend and 6-foot-8 Utah State transfer Great Osobor (17.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.8 apg) early next week. Osobor, the Mountain West Player of the Year, was high school teammates with Amari Williams in England. Osobor’s family is flying over to the U.S. for the visit to Lexington.

In other words, Kentucky’s once-empty roster could begin to fill out quite nicely in a hurry now.

Required reading

(Photo: Brian Fluharty / USA Today)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top