Big Blue Nation is no stranger to learning a bulk of new names this time every year.
Head coach John Calipari and the Wildcats have been at the forefront of the “one-and-done” era of college basketball, showcasing the talent of the nation’s top freshman recruits for a season before letting them run free to the professional level.
Once again, many new faces will take the court at Rupp Arena as a Wildcat this season, as seven players will don Kentucky blue for the first time.
However, just three of those seven are beginning their collegiate careers. A record four transfers will play for Calipari and UK during the 2021-22 campaign.
Graduate student Kellan Grady, redshirt junior CJ Fredrick and fellow juniors Sahvir Wheeler and Oscar Tshiebwe all made the move to call Lexington their home for at least one season.
But what made the four choose Kentucky?
“I think I fit in really well with this team,” Grady said at a Kentucky basketball summer camp.
Grady, who spent four years at Davidson College, scored 2,002 points for the Atlantic-10 school, ranking sixth all-time in school history.
“Ultimately, I’m a scorer who can shoot the ball,” Grady said. “I think I can score at all three levels; mid-range game, floater and pull-ups, layups at the rim and from beyond the arc.”
When it comes to shooters, look no further than CJ Fredrick.
“I felt like this was the best opportunity for me,” Fredrick said at his high school alma mater in June.
Fredrick is familiar to the Bluegrass. The Iowa transfer is a graduate of Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, and was named the 2018 Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year.
In his two seasons at Iowa, Fredrick averaged 8.8 points per game while shooting at a 46.6 percent clip from three-point range.
For Sahvir Wheeler, the Georgia transfer is already feeling the love that attracted him to BBN.
“Everyone just knowing my name, knowing where I come from, knowing the success I had, just showing their love and belief in me and how happy they are that I’m here, that’s been the biggest thing,” Wheeler said.
In his two-year career with the Bulldogs, Wheeler averaged 11.3 points and 5.8 assists. In his sophomore campaign, the 5-foot-10 guard led the SEC in assists and was top five in the nation in assists per game with 7.4. Wheeler also led the Bulldogs in scoring last season, averaging 14 points per game.
“I might not be the biggest, but I’m probably one of the strongest and fastest,” Wheeler said. “I guess two out of three, that’s not so bad.”
The lone forward of the group, Oscar Tshiebwe knows what it means to play for the Wildcats.
“I call myself a warrior. I fight,” Tshiebwe said. “You want to be at Kentucky? You want to be successful? Then you’ve got to fight.”
Tshiebwe, a transfer from West Virginia, averaged 11.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in 31 starts as a freshman, his only full season with the Mountaineers.
After leaving Morgantown, the Democratic Republic of the Congo native feels right at home in Lexington.
“I felt like [West Virginia] was a place God didn’t want me to be for a long time,” Tshiebwe said. “So I’m in a good place now and I’m thankful.”
While all four players' reasons for transferring to Kentucky differ from one another, their goal is the same: bring another championship to Lexington.