Kentucky basketball team back at full strength for first time since the Duke game

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Finally, the Kentucky Wildcats will have all of their available scholarship players for Tuesday night’s basketball game against Southern University.

UK veteran guard Davion Mintz will return to the court for the first time after missing the last three games with an illness, and the rest of the Wildcats’ roster will also be available Tuesday night, the first time that’s happened since the Kentucky-Duke game four weeks ago.

Junior forward Jacob Toppin missed four games with a shoulder injury after UK’s season-opening loss to the Blue Devils, and sophomore forward Lance Ware played just one minute against Robert Morris — due to an ankle injury suffered against Duke — before missing all of the next three games.

Starting forward Keion Brooks missed the game against North Florida on Nov. 26 with an illness.

Mintz returned to the practice floor last week, and UK Coach John Calipari said on his radio show Monday that Brooks, Toppin and Ware were also back to 100 percent health.

“It’s nice because you can now, one, work against each other, but, two, work on things, because they’re here,” Calipari said on the pregame radio show Tuesday. “You can’t add new stuff and do things when five of your guys aren’t in practice -- they’re sick back in the rooms. So, we had that for two or three days. But the last few days, we’ve been together.”

Calipari did say that freshman wing Bryce Hopkins has been practicing through an injury. Hopkins was available to play Tuesday night, but he was the only scholarship player who did not play in the first half. He first entered the game midway through the second half.

Transfer guard CJ Fredrick is expected to miss the entire 2021-22 season with a hamstring injury, leaving the team with 11 scholarship players.

Mintz led the Wildcats in scoring and three-point shooting last season, and he’s come off the bench in all four of his games so far, with newcomers Sahvir Wheeler, TyTy Washington and Kellan Grady starting all seven of Kentucky’s games. Mintz is averaging 7.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 21.5 minutes per game, leading all UK bench players in every one of those categories. He’s also 5-for-11 from three-point range for a team-best 45.5 percent.

“He’s done well. He’ll be the first guard in (against Southern),” Calipari said before the game Tuesday.

Kentucky’s next game will be Saturday at Notre Dame.

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