Cason Wallace declares for NBA Draft. What’s next for Kentucky at the point guard spot?

As expected, Cason Wallace’s first season as a Kentucky Wildcat will be his last.

Wallace — a 6-foot-4 guard from Dallas — has declared for the 2023 NBA Draft and intends to keep his name in the pool, foregoing his final three years of college basketball eligibility.

“This season was fun. It had its ups and downs but the best part was having my brothers with me. We stuck through it and saw it through,” Wallace said in a statement Saturday morning. “When NCAA Tournament time came, I wanted to give everything I had. That was my last game unfortunately, but I went down swinging. Coach Calipari was always there for us; when we lost, he took the blame. He taught me that it was a privilege to play the game.

“Learning how to play the point guard position the whole game helped. It forced me to step up to another challenge in a new role.”

A key player for the Cats during the 2022-23 season, Wallace averaged 11.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game despite playing through a series of injuries over his first year with the program. He led the team in total assists and steals and was second in three-pointers made and fourth in scoring.

Wallace started in 32 of Kentucky’s 34 games as a freshman, missing two games due to injury and playing hurt for much of the season, with back, leg and ankle issues hampering his freshman campaign. Still, he was an effective player for the Wildcats and an instant-impact newcomer to the program, earning all-SEC freshman team honors and finishing second in the league in assists per game and fourth in steals per game.

In his final game as a Wildcat, the Texas native tallied 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists and went 9-for-11 from the floor in a 75-69 loss to Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky guard Cason Wallace averaged 11.7 points, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game as a freshman during the 2022-23 season.
Kentucky guard Cason Wallace averaged 11.7 points, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game as a freshman during the 2022-23 season.

Wallace is widely projected as a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft, rated highly on the most recent mock drafts and top prospects lists from ESPN (10th overall), The Athletic (10th), USA Today (11th) and Yahoo Sports (13th).

“Cason is a playmaking guard who is going to have the opportunity to make an immediate impact at the next level,” John Calipari said Saturday. “He has good size and a tremendous feel for the game, and no situation is too big for him. He’s ready to take this step and I’m thrilled for he and his family.”

247Sports ranked Wallace as the No. 5 overall recruit in the 2022 class, and he was the No. 10 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings, which take other websites’ ratings into account.

The loss of Wallace and Sahvir Wheeler, who has already entered the transfer portal, means that Kentucky will have zero returning point guards from this past season’s team.

John Calipari is bringing in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, a group led by DJ Wagner, who is often classified as a combo guard but expected to be UK’s starting point guard for the 2023-24 season. Wagner — a 6-3 playmaker from Camden, N.J. — was the most valuable player of this year’s McDonald’s All-American Game and appears to be firmly in the discussion for the No. 1 ranking in the 2023 class.

The Cats’ top-ranked class also features highly touted combo guards Robert Dillingham and Reed Sheppard — a top-10 national recruit and McDonald’s All-American, respectively — two players who could also handle some point guard duties next season. CJ Fredrick, Antonio Reeves and Adou Thiero all played limited minutes at point guard while Wallace and Wheeler were sidelined at various points during the 2022-23 season, and each of those players could return to Kentucky for another run.

Wallace is a near lock to continue Calipari’s streak of first-round NBA Draft picks. Each of his previous 13 seasons at Kentucky have featured at least one first-round selection, and the UK program has produced at least one lottery pick in 11 of those years.

The 2023 NBA Draft is scheduled for June 22 in Brooklyn.

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