Pope says he’s ‘really close’ to completing first UK schedule

Kentucky coach Mark Pope talked with freshman Trent Noah, a former Harlan County all-stater, during a recent practice session.
Kentucky coach Mark Pope talked with freshman Trent Noah, a former Harlan County all-stater, during a recent practice session.
UK athletics

LEXINGTON (KT) — Kentucky coach Mark Pope has his first roster intact and is busy finalizing a schedule for next season and beyond.

Pope said earlier this week that he’s “really close” to completing his first schedule at Kentucky.

“I think we’re just waiting on some contracts,” he said. “Scheduling is complicated. It is like, it never ceases to amaze me how complicated. To put together a schedule is more complicated now than ever.”

Pope added there are “10 different reasons” it’s difficult to piece together a schedule, but offered some insights on what the schedule will look like once it’s completed.

“I think we’re really excited about our schedule.” he said. “We’re playing some of the best teams in the country early. We like the way that it’s spaced out during the non-conference, and it’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to get into Rupp. I just can’t wait.”

The Wildcats are scheduled to play Duke in the State Farm Champions Classic on Nov. 12 in Atlanta, at Clemson in the SEC-ACC Challenge on Dec. 3 and will play Gonzaga in Seattle on Dec. 7.

Kentucky will host rival Louisville on Dec. 14 and will play Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21.

The rest of the schedule has yet to be officially finalized.


Pope will be relying on his staff and players to create the right chemistry and wants the Wildcats to be “a player-led team and a player-led organization.”

“We believe in a player-led team and a player-led organization,” Pope said. “We believe from leading in the middle, not from out front. What we do, is we want to mentor these kids so they can be great leaders for themselves and great and hold each other accountable.”

Eventually, Pope said, he wants the Wildcats to have their own voices on the court that will “always be more powerful than mine.”

“That’s when, you know, you really have a team, when you really have it, when guys are on the court making decisions with each other and holding each other accountable and not looking over the bench at me and seeing if they’re pleasing me or if they’re doing what I said,” Pope said. “(Instead) they’re doing what the game is teaching them to do. The game is the best teacher.”


Pope currently has 12 scholarship players on his roster and is seeking to add a 13th player soon.

“We’re still kind of flirting with it and we’ll see,” he said. “We’ll spend some time, a ton of time in the summer out on the road where it’s legal, including some international things. There’s always unique things and there’s also, interesting things that always happen late in the states. We’ll kind of play it by ear.”

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