Lance Ware picks his transfer destination. He’ll be playing in the Big East.
Former Kentucky basketball player Lance Ware has found his next basketball destination.
Ware — a 6-foot-9 forward from Camden, N.J. — will transfer to Villanova, he announced Saturday.
Primarily a backup big man over the past three seasons with the Wildcats, Ware averaged 2.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in 9.9 minutes per game this past season. He spent most of the past two years backing up Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe — the national player of the year in 2021-22 and an All-America selection in 2022-23 — while emerging as a leader on the team despite his relatively limited role.
John Calipari named Ware a co-captain — alongside senior starter Jacob Toppin — going into NCAA Tournament play, and the Hall of Fame coach lauded Ware’s contributions to the Cats when the 22-year-old junior announced this month that he would enter the transfer portal.
Calipari also left the door open for Ware to return to Lexington after exploring the transfer process.
“Lance has gotten better every year,” the UK coach said on May 4. “He’s an exceptional leader and as good a teammate as I’ve ever coached. He knows he is welcome to return if he doesn’t find the opportunity he’s looking for.”
Obviously, Ware found a fit with another group of Wildcats.
At Villanova, he’ll join a program that struggled in its first season without Hall of Fame head coach Jay Wright, who had led the Wildcats for 21 seasons — advancing to four Final Fours and winning two national titles in that span — before announcing his retirement last year. Nova had a 17-17 record and finished 6-6 in the Big East, missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 years in the first season under new head coach Kyle Neptune, a longtime Wright assistant.
The Wildcats are not widely projected as a Top 25 team to begin the 2023-24 campaign, according to the early rankings from national outlets.
Ware will hope to find more playing time with his new school next season. As a freshman on UK’s ill-fated 2020-21 team, he played a career-high 12.1 minutes per game, but the Cats went just 9-16 that season, and the arrival of Tshiebwe relegated Ware to an even more limited role over the next two years.
At Kentucky, he tallied just 140 points and 171 rebounds in 77 games, but he became somewhat of a fan favorite — as well as a constant target of Calipari’s praise — for his energetic, team-first style of play.
Ware had zero points in three minutes in UK’s win over Providence in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, then scored two points in the Cats’ loss to Kansas State two days later, his final game as a Kentucky player.
Ware’s departure leaves Kentucky with only two post players — Ugonna Onyenso and incoming recruit Aaron Bradshaw — for the time being. UK is still waiting on Tshiebwe to make a final decision regarding his NBA Draft status this year, and sophomore forward Daimion Collins also entered the transfer portal following the 2022-23 season, though he has not yet announced a new school.
It’s possible that UK could still find some frontcourt help in the transfer portal before next season begins.
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