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Kentucky Basketball

Kahlil Whitney is Leaving the Program

January 25, 2020
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Kahlil Whitney announced on Friday that he was leaving the Kentucky Basketball program. He didn't say transferring, so it is unclear what his next step is, but the timing after the start of the semester would make a transfer keep him out for all of next season. While we await further details on his future, let's take a look at what this means for Kentucky. 

The 2019-2020 season will likely only be impacted if *knocks on wood* Kentucky sustains an injury. Calipari prefers a 7-8 man rotation, and it was becoming more and more evident that Kahlil was on the outside looking in on that rotation. EJ Montgomery, Keion Brooks, Nate Sestina, and Johnny Juzang seem to be the eight men Cal is leaning on for that rotation as Whitney had eclipsed double-digit minutes just twice since the trip to Vegas at the end of December. Whitney had the lowest offensive rating of anyone on the team and wasn't seeing his elite athleticism translate on the defensive side of the ball either. Assuming we continue to see growth from the bench and barring an injury, Kentucky's 2019-2020 season shouldn't be impacted much from the departure of Whitney.

What is more interesting is the look to the future teams. Kahlil Whitney came into college with a ton of hype. His "Dragon" nickname is objectively cool, despite being seemingly self-given, and he was being mocked as a top-ten pick in the NBA draft. That hype was obviously unwarranted in year one, but I still believe Whitney could reach that potential. His incredible athleticism is something that few have, and his best days of basketball are likely in front of him, which is why this departure is a sad one. 

Similar to Charles Matthews, Whitney will likely develop into a very effective basketball player once his skills catch up with his physical gifts. Kentucky has shown the ability to develop guys over their college careers and unlock their talents. That's what makes it unfortunate for future Kentucky teams that they will not have the luxury of having that breakout version of Whitney, whether it was in his second, third, or fourth year with the team. 

I use the word luxury there on purpose because that is what Kahlil Whitney would have been had he stayed - a luxury. Kentucky has shown that they have the horses this year to be a contender, and they are bringing in the number one class next year as well. Terrance Clarke and BJ Boston highlight the incoming class and both play on the wing, a similar spot to Whitney. Calipari is not done with this recruiting class either, which means the hole left by Whitney will be filled.

I hope Kahlil, no matter what his next step is, realizes his dream of making it to the NBA. Whitney's ceiling remains incredibly high. Despite his lack of production this season, I would have loved to see him reach his potential in a Kentucky jersey. The top-ten hype around Whitney wasn't unfounded, just premature, so seeing him flying around as a sophomore or junior after breaking through would have been a blast.  

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Kahlil Whitney is Leaving the Program

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