Tang Signs Elite Big Man Ugonna Onyenso

Pronounced ooo-GAH-na ON-yen-so


MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang secured the services of one of the top shot blockers with the signing of elite big man Ugonna Onyenso (Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria/NBA Africa/Putnam Science Academy/Kentucky) to a Financial Aid Agreement on Tuesday (June 11).

A 7-foot, 247-pound center and former consensus top-25 recruit, Onyenso arrives at K-State after spending the last 2 seasons (2022-24) at Kentucky, where he was apart of 45 wins, including 25 in SEC play, and consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (2023, 2024). He played in 40 games in his 2 seasons as a Wildcat, mostly this past season where he played in the last 24 games with 14 consecutive starts to end the 2023-24 season.

The native of Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria is a product of the NBA Academy Africa program, where he played in a number of high-profile international competitions in Europe, Mexico and the U.S., while he was one of the youngest players to ever make the senior men’s Nigerian National Team in 2020. As a senior, he helped lead prep powerhouse Putnam Science Academy in Putnam, Conn., to 20 consecutive wins and a National Prep Basketball Championship upon coming to the U.S., in 2020.

Onyenso, who declared for the 2024 NBA Draft before opting to withdraw on May 29, will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after his two seasons at Kentucky.

Onyenso developed into one of the top shot blockers in all of college basketball during his time at Kentucky, compiling 82 blocks in a mere 40 games played, including 66 in just 24 games in 2023-24. His 2.75 blocks per game average this past season ranks fifth in Kentucky school history among players with a minimum of 30 blocks. The average would have ranked sixth nationally had he played enough games to qualify for the list. The 66 total blocks tied for 32nd nationally, including the third-most in the SEC. He had at least 2 blocks in 21 games, including 3 or more on 16 occasions, while he had 5 or more blocks in 4 games.

Onyenso tied a Rupp Arena record with 10 blocks in a win over Ole Miss on Feb. 13, 2024, equaling a mark set by Navy’s David Robinson on Jan. 25, 1987. He narrowly missed a triple-double in an overtime loss to Florida on Jan. 31, posting career-highs for points (13), rebounds (16) and steals (2) to go with 8 blocked shots. He also had 5 blocks in the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament game against Oakland on March 21.

In his Kentucky career, Onyenso averaged 3.1 points on 54.3 percent (51-of-94) shooting with 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 14.0 minutes per game. He grabbed double-digit rebounds in 5 games, highlighted by a career-best 16-board effort and first double-double in the aforementioned game against the Gators. He also snagged 11 rebounds in a 70-59 win at No. 13 Auburn on Feb. 17 to go with 7 points.

Onyenso played in the last 24 games of the 2023-24 season with 14 consecutive starts after missing the first 9 games of the season due to a foot injury. He averaged 3.6 points on 55 percent (33-of-60) shooting with 4.8 rebounds and 2.75 blocks in 18.7 minutes per game. He had one double-digit scoring game (13 points vs. Florida on Jan. 31), while he registered double-digit rebounds 3 times, highlighted by the career-best 16 against the Gators. Other notable performances included a 7-point, 10-rebound, 5-block effort in a loss at Texas A&M on Jan. 13 and a 6-rebound, 4-block night in an upset of No. 4 Tennessee in Knoxville.

As a freshman in 2022-23, Onyenso saw action in 16 games off the bench, averaging 2.5 points on 52.9 percent (18-of-34) shooting with 2.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 6.9 minutes per game while playing behind All-American Oscar Tshiebwe. He posted 6 points, 4 rebounds and a season-high 4 blocks in the season opener against Howard on Nov. 7, 2022. He followed with near double-double against Duquesne on Nov. 11, posting his first career double-digit rebound effort (10 rebounds) to go with 9 points and 3 blocked shots in 18 minutes. He had a second double-digit rebound night against North Florida on Nov. 23 with 10 boards, along with 7 points and 3 blocks.

Onyenso was a consensus top-25 prospect among major scouting services in the Class of 2023 but opted to reclassify and join Kentucky ahead of the 2022-23 season.

Prior to enrolling at Kentucky, Onyenso scored in double figures in all 6 games he played in at the NBA Academy Games in Atlanta in the summer of 2022. He averaged 13.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game while connecting on 64.4 percent from the field.

Onyenso spent his senior season at Putnam Science Academy, leading the school to 20 consecutive wins and a prep school national championship after joining the team in January 2020. He averaged 11.4 points on 64.4 percent shooting with 9.0 rebounds and 5.7 blocks per game. He had 5 games with at least 10 blocked shots, including a 24-point, 11-rebound, 11-block triple-double performance.

Onyenso played three seasons at the NBA Academy Africa in Thies, Senegal, where he played in tournaments all over Europe, Mexico and the U.S., including the Tarkanian Classic and NBA Academy exhibition games. He helped the team win the European Youth Basketball League Tournament in Hungary.

In 2020 at the age of 17, Onyenso became one of the youngest players ever to make the senior Nigerian National Team. He made his debut with the team at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers in November 2021, scoring 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting with 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in 16 minutes in a 96-69 win over Uganda.

Onyenso is the ninth player to sign with the Wildcats for the 2024-25 season, including the seventh Division I transfer. He joins Achor Achor (Melbourne, Australia/Greenforest McCalep Academy/Chipola College/Samford), Baye Fall (Dakar, Senegal/ Accelerated Prep [Colo.]/Arkansas), Brendan Hausen (Amarillo, Texas/Amarillo/ Villanova), Mobi Ikegwuruka (Galway, Ireland/Ellsworth [Iowa] Community College)C.J. Jones (East St. Louis, Ill./East St. Louis/UIC)Max Jones (Clearwater, Fla./Clearwater/University of Tampa/Cal State Fullerton) and Dug McDaniel (Washington, D.C./St. Paul VI Catholic VI/Michigan).

The eight transfers join top-50 high school prospect David Castillo (Bartlesville, Okla./Sunrise Christian Academy [Kan.]), who signed during the early signing period on Nov. 8.

K-State finished the 2023-24 season with a 19-15 record, including a tie for ninth in the Big 12 with an 8-10 mark, and advanced to the NIT. Among the Wildcats’ 19 victories were 4 over Top 25 teams, including 3 in the Top 10. The team has won 45 games in head coach Jerome Tang’s tenure, including consecutive postseason appearances.

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