The Perfect Final Piece to Hogs’ Roster Has Tie to Former NBA MVP

Joel Embiid, John Calipari, Arkansas basketball, Ulrich Chomche

John Calipari might not be done adding to the 2024-25 Arkansas basketball roster after all, depending on what Ulrich Chomche decides to do in the coming days.

We’ll forgive you for not recognizing the name of what could be the perfect final piece to the Razorbacks’ main rotation in their first season under the Hall of Fame coach.

That’s understandable because, as of this writing, he’s still in the 2024 NBA Draft as an intriguing international prospect and there isn’t a lot of buzz about the Cameroon native taking the collegiate route.

However, if Chomche chooses to withdraw from the draft ahead of the June 16 deadline for international players, the 6-foot-10, 232-pound big man would immediately become a hot commodity for high-major programs looking to put the finishing touches on their roster for the upcoming season.

Even though Calipari mentioned adding “one more” player before it was announced that Trevon Brazile was returning for another season, Arkansas would apparently be one potential destination.

According to a “report” by Trilly Donovan, an anonymous college basketball insider, the Razorbacks would be in the mix for Chomche if he withdraws from the NBA Draft, along with Illinois, LSU and North Carolina.

Take that for what it’s worth, but a closer look at the potential fit reveals Chomche-to-Arkansas would make a lot of sense for both sides.

Why it Makes Sense for Arkansas Basketball

Based on his most recent comments, John Calipari is done adding players expected to be part of Arkansas’ rotation next season. That group checks in at nine players. The scholarship limit for men’s basketball is 13.

However, when he first went public with his unique roster construction plan on a podcast, Calipari acknowledged he’d be willing to add a 10th player, as long as said additional understood his role lower on the pecking order.

Prior to Trevon Brazile jumping back on board, there was speculation that the Razorbacks might target an international prospect because their reported “war chest” of NIL money might be dwindling and athletes on student visas are restricted in how they earn NIL compensation.

After all, Calipari has plenty of experience with international athletes. In fact, one of his best recent players — 2022 national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe — was originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also coached Ugonna Onyenso (Nigeria) and Wenyen Gabriel (Sudan) at Kentucky.

Then there’s the roster itself, which currently has a lot of length with Brazile (6-10, 220), Tennessee transfer Jonas Aidoo (6-11, 240) and Kentucky transfer Zvonimir Ivisic (7-2, 235), but may lack some depth. Beyond those three, the front court depth includes Kentucky transfer Adou Thiero (6-8, 220), who Malian father had played for Calipari at Memphis.

Despite that size, one common criticism of the Razorbacks’ roster is its lack of a true physical inside presence. Brazile and Ivisic aren’t traditional big men and there were times last year that Aidoo struggled against elite big men in the paint.

Ulrich Chomche would seemingly check all of those boxes. He likely wouldn’t have a large role on an NBA team even if he was drafted and he’d be an international player.

Even as a freshman, Chomche has good size, as he measured at 6-foot-10.25 and 232.4 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine. That’s a stark contrast to the African-born player on last year’s roster. Despite being a five-star prospect, Baye Fall, at 6-foot-11, 200 pounds, was incredibly raw and needed time in a collegiate weight program before he’d be able to compete in the SEC.

Chomche seems to be closer to ready for the physical nature of the SEC than his Senegalese counterpart, plus it doesn’t hurt that he’s gone up against grown men while playing in a professional league in Africa the last few years. His competition may not have been as skilled as what he’d see at Arkansas, but that age gap should mean he’d be used to that level of strength.

Why it Makes Sense for Ulrich Chomche

To be eligible for the NBA Draft, a player must turn 19 before the end of the current calendar year. With a Dec. 30 birthday, Ulrich Chomche barely met that deadline, making him the youngest prospect in this year’s draft.

He generated some first-round buzz early on, but now seems to be more of a second-round prospect. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony slotted him at No. 42 on his latest top-100 big board and that’s also where Sports Illustrated has him going in its latest mock draft. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has Chomche going slightly higher, at No. 40 overall.

It’s also worth noting that ESPN recently wrote a breakdown of eight international prospects fans should know and Chomche was not included.

Perhaps he could be a second-round steal like recent Razorbacks Daniel Gafford and Isaiah Joe, but both of those guys had spent two years in college and were much more developed at the time of the NBA Draft.

That’s why it might benefit Chomche to head to college and develop what has been almost universally described as a raw offensive game to go with his elite defensive skill set. You can see that come through loud and clear with the vicious block Chomche makes for his unfortunately named pro team here:

And who better to learn from than Arkansas basketball coach John Calipari, who has sent countless players native to various continents into the NBA during his illustrious career. Not only that, but he’d also get to learn from assistant coach Kenny Payne, who has a reputation as a big man guru.

He’s already worked with one of 2023 NBA MVP Joel Embiid’s trainers from Africa and a year or two with Calipari and Payne could help him live up to the hype as Cameroon’s best basketball prospect since Embiid. That’d potentially elevate him to first-round status, which would almost certainly increase his chances of sticking in the NBA.

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If the Arkansas roster remains at 9 players, here’s how the 5-man combinations could play out:

2024-25 Arkansas Basketball Roster

PlayerPOSYRHTWTHometownHS / Prev. School
D.J. WagnerGSo.6-4195Camden, N.J.Camden HS / Kentucky
Adou ThieroFJr.6-8220Pittsburgh, Pa.Quaker Valley HS / Kentucky
Billy Richmond IIIFFr.6-5205Memphis, Tenn.Camden (N.J.) HS
Karter KnoxFFr.6-6225Riverview Fla.Overtime Elite – RWE
Zvonimir IvisicFSo.7-2235Vodice, CroatiaKentucky
Johnell DavisGS-Sr.6-4205Gary, Ind.21st Century Charter / FAU
Johnuel “Boogie” FlandGFr.6-2175Bronx, N.Y.Archbishop Stepinac HS
Jonas AidooFSr.6-11240Durham, N.C.Liberty Heights Athletic Institute / Tennessee
Trevon BrazileFJr.6-10220Springfield, Mo.Kickapoo HS / Missouri
*Lawson BlakeFSr.6-10240Fayetteville, Ark.Fayetteville HS / Link Year (Mo.) Prep
*walk-on

Cameroonian NBA Players

Here’s the list that Ulrich Chomche is trying to join, either in this year’s NBA Draft or a future one…

  • C Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje (2001-04)
  • G D.J. Strawberry (2007-08)
  • F Luc Mbah a Moute (2008-20)
  • C Joel Embiid (2016-present)
  • F Pascal Siakam (2016-present)
  • C Christian Koloko (2022-23)

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More on Ulrich Chomche:

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