Adou Thiero Goes Hog Despite What Suspect “Report” Alleged

Adou Thiero, John Calipari, Kentucky basketball, Arkansas basketball, transfer portal
photo credit: Kentucky Athletics

After nabbing a couple of big fish out of the transfer portal, John Calipari went back to the Kentucky-to-Arkansas pipeline for his latest addition: Adou Thiero.

The 6-foot-8 forward spent the last two seasons playing for Calipari and the Wildcats and will suit up for the legendary coach once again next year – this time with the Razorbacks.

A late surge by Arkansas appeared to be the difference, as Thiero’s recruitment appeared to be coming down to North Carolina and Pittsburgh. However, about the same time he was visiting Pitt, Calipari just so happened to be in town for dinner with some old friends from his time as an assistant for the Panthers.

According to Pittsburgh Sports Now, Calipari wasn’t just there visiting friends. He also met with Thiero and his family, as Pittsburgh is his listed hometown and he played high school ball in Leetsdale, Penn., a Pittsburgh suburb.

A few days later, Thiero was on Arkansas’ campus for a visit. Calipari’s trip to his old stomping grounds for a face-to-face meeting, plus a “pretty good NIL deal,” helped Arkansas seal the deal, according to PSN.

Arkansas basketball is now up to seven scholarship players on its 2024-25 roster, which Calipari has had to build from scratch after every player from last year’s team either exhausted their eligibility, declared for the NBA Draft or entered the transfer portal and both signees were released from their NLIs.

Thiero is the fifth of those newcomers to follow their coach from Lexington to Fayetteville, joining 7-foot-2 big man Zvonimir Ivisic, who also utilized the portal, and a trio of five-star freshmen in Karter Knox, Boogie Fland and Billy Richmond III.

The Razorbacks added a pair of consensus top-15 players from the transfer portal last week, securing All-SEC big man Jonas Aidoo from Tennessee and AAC co-Player of the Year Johnell Davis from FAU – the latter of whom was rated as the No. 1 transfer in the cycle by On3.

That leaves Calipari six more scholarships to fill before his first season leading the program.

Even with those spots still open, Arkansas’ four-man portal haul is now ranked No. 1 in the country by 247Sports. That’s in addition to the sixth-ranked high school recruiting class.

The Razorbacks check in at No. 3 in 247Sports’ overall rankings for the Class of 2024, which combines high school and portal recruiting, trailing only Duke and Alabama.

Adou Thiero at Kentucky

Coming out of Quaker Valley High School, Adou Thiero was not your typical heralded John Calipari recruit. He was a four-star prospect on both 247Sports and ESPN, with the former also ranking him No. 138 nationally, but Rivals tabbed him as a three-star.

One thing worked in his favor, though: his father, Almamy, played four seasons under Calipari at Memphis in the early- to mid-2000s.

Despite being viewed as more of a developmental piece with the Wildcats, Thiero committed to Kentucky after also visiting Maryland, Pitt, Xavier and Duquesne, becoming a late addition to its 2022 recruiting class.

Sure enough, he played sparingly as a freshman. Thiero appeared in only 20 of 34 games and played just 9.5 minutes per game, averaging 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds. As a sophomore, though, his game took a big step forward, as he started 19 games and put up 7.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.1 blocks in 21.4 minutes per game.

Thiero improved his field goal percentage from 34.5% on 1.5 attempts per game to 49.2% on 5.3 attempts, plus his free throw percentage jumped from 69.7% on 1.7 attempts to 80.0% on 2.2 attempts. Despite his playing time more than doubling, his turnovers stayed the same. The only area he didn’t improve was his 3-point shooting, albeit on a very small sample size – 33.3% (3 of 9) to 31.8% (7 of 22).

His best games came against top competition, too: 16 points and 13 rebounds against Kansas, 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks against Gonzaga, 14 points and 8 rebounds at Auburn, and 12 points against Alabama.

Given his family ties to Calipari and his significant improvement from one year to the next, Thiero would have seemingly been a lock to follow him to Fayetteville. However, a few tea leaves seemed to indicate otherwise.

First of all, Thiero entered the transfer portal on March 28 – a full week before John Tyson called up his buddy and 10 days before new first leaked that Arkansas lured Calipari away from Kentucky.

Of course, there were reports at the time that Thiero hadn’t ruled out a return to the Wildcats, but it didn’t necessarily seem likely.

Then there’s the “report” from college basketball “insider” Trilly Donovan – whose real identity is not known, but has nearly 80,000 followers on Twitter and has been right enough with breaking news to be profiled by The Athletic.

Last month, Donovan posted on his Discord, essentially a subscription-based message board, that Calipari’s staff “forgot” to submit the necessary paperwork for Thiero to enter the 2024 NBA Draft, as he initially intended to test the waters while also entering the portal. That is despite having more than a week to do so before leaving for Arkansas.

Whether or not that’s true, or if the oversight had a legitimate reason or fell on someone other than Calipari himself, it doesn’t seem like there are any hard feelings. In an interview with ESPN on Monday, Thiero praised Calipari for his ability to send players to the NBA, credited him for his development the previous two years and expressed confidence in his ability to help him achieve his goals.

“I started with Coach Cal and want to see it through with him,” Thiero told ESPN. “Very excited to join the family and ready to get to work.”

That doesn’t exactly sound like someone upset with Calipari.

What Arkansas Basketball is Getting

In today’s college game, Adou Thiero might be the prototypical complimentary combo forward. If he could bump his 3-point shooting percentage up some from the 32% he posted last season, he’d have everything you want in a defensive-minded wing.

Thiero’s best attribute is his defensive versatility. He has good strength for his size combined with hyper-athleticism that allows him to get off the ground in a hurry for rebounds, blocks and stealing passes out of the air.

The Leetsdale, Penn., native posted a 5.3% block rate last season, ranking higher than Trevon Brazile and Tramon Mark, while ranking third on the Kentucky basketball team in blocks per game behind Ugonna Onyenso (6-foot-11) and newly reunited teammate Zvonimir Ivisic (7-foot-2) despite standing at least five inches shorter than both players.

While his 6-foot-8 frame might be more naturally suited for the 3 position, Thiero’s size and notable athleticism could easily allow him to play up to the 4 spot for stretches in the collegiate game.

This possibility is further illustrated by his 5.0 rebounds – including 1.5 offensive rebounds – per game last season. This trailed only Tre Mitchell (6-foot-9) among all Wildcats last season.

Thiero’s athleticism doesn’t only help him on the defensive side of the court, however. He’s got the perfect combination of height and athleticism to be a slasher from the wing. He showed flashes of this in Lexington, but he wasn’t always asked to score often due to Kentucky’s overall firepower and his more defensive-minded nature.

He gets off the ground well on dunk attempts in traffic whether or not he has ample room to set his feet, and he is exceptionally good at re-gathering himself and leaping for second or even third offensive rebound opportunities – especially for someone his size.

He’s the exact type of player that Arkansas was missing last season. They had a few 6-foot-7-ish players last season like Mark and Jeremiah Davenport, but none that were uber-athletic with a defensive mindset and the ability to affect the game without needing the ball in their hands.

Those types of traits in a complementary player alongside other playmakers can be the difference between a second-weekend NCAA Tournament team and a true contender.

Don’t be surprised if Thiero is instantly the favorite to start at the 3 for the Hogs this year despite his relatively low scoring average – especially if he is able to up his 3-point shooting percentage even slightly to 34% or so.


Brandon Baker contributed to this report, providing the scouting report on Adou Thiero.


Check out some more highlights of new Arkansas basketball portal commitment Adou Thiero from his time at Kentucky:

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