LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kahlil Whitney tweeted today, Jan. 24, that he has chosen to leave Kentucky.
This will make Whitney the 12th player under Coach John Calipari to transfer from Kentucky. The others are: Darnell Dodson, Stacey Poole, Ryan Harrow, Kyle Wiltjer, Marcus Lee, Charles Matthews, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Tai Wynyard, Jemarl Baker, Quade Green, and Brad Calipari.
Whitney will also make six transfers in the last three seasons.
The Chicago native started his first seven games at Kentucky before Calipari began trying new lineups. Whitney got one final start against Ohio State, but only saw 10 minutes of play that game. In the next game, against in-state rival, Louisville, Whitney play just two minutes.
Whitney’s decision to leave Kentucky has come as a surprise to many. Mid-season transfers are rare, but especially for a 5-star freshman.
Just ten days earlier, Whitney addressed the media before the South Carolina game. Most of what he said makes this decision seem even more out of the blue.
“I just know my journey,” he said, “I’ve put a lot of work in the gym here and it’s a blessing to be here so I’m forever going to keep a smile on my face and keep positive energy.”
That day, he also talked about being close with his teammates, calling them “a pretty close group.” Whitney went on to say that Tyrese Maxey was his best friend and that he and Keion Brooks Jr. “talk all the time and crack jokes.”
In addition to speaking to what this team means him as friends, Whitney also complimented some of the veterans for the advice they’ve given him.
“Nick has been here for three years and EJ has been here for two. They’ve just said that there are going to be ups and downs.”
Interestingly, when asked about what he expected out of his freshman year, Whitney said something similar, “There were definitely going to be some ups and downs no matter what situations you’re in.”
For the 6’7 freshman, there has definitely been more downs than ups this year. Since SEC play began six games ago, Whitney has scored just three points in a total of 41 minutes of play. In the last two games combined he has played just four minutes and walked away with only a single point. This dropped his averages as a Wildcat to 12.8 minutes, 3.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in his 18 games played.
Despite his recent lackluster minutes, a mid-season transfer from a talent like Whitney hurts. Especially considering this is the same guy that once wrote an essay about playing basketball at Kentucky being his “wildest dream.”
From what he wrote on Twitter, the decision to leave seemed to have hit Calipari hard too.
Whitney has options as far as what he decides to do next.
Some mock drafts still have him being selected in this year’s draft, citing his incredible athleticism as too much to pass up on. But most of these mock drafts have Whitney in the late second round. This means that there is no guarantee that he would be drafted and even if he was, he may not be signed.
If Whitney decides to transfer instead, he will be eligible to play next year, per NCAA rules.
As a recruit, Whitney was ranked the number 11 player in the nation by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. He scored over 2,000 points in his high school career and lead his team to a state title his junior year. Whitney was named a Jordan Brand All-American, McDonald’s All-American and was selected as the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic co-MVP. His junior year he was named to the Naismith High School Boy’s All-American Third Team. With all those high school accolades, Whitney should be able to play for the school of his choosing should he decide to transfer.
The other three of his final four schools were Illinois, Georgetown and Oregon. Both Illinois and Georgetown have already made some buzz in Whitney’s new recruitment. The comments on Whitney’s tweet announcing his transfer are filled with fans of both clamoring for him to come to their schools.
As Illinois is located just over two hours from his hometown of Chicago, the Fighting Illini certainly seem to have a leg up. Chicago has always been important to Whitney, making Illinois an even more likely option.
In fact, Whitney had made a promise to his principal years ago that he would sign his National Letter of Intent (NLI) at his old elementary school to give the kids hope of a brighter future than a life on the streets. Due to travel constraints, he was unable to make it back to Chicago in the fall and ended up signing his NLI in the spring just to keep his promise.
A third transfer option may be Seton Hall. Whitney’s father, Kelly Whitney, is a Seton Hall legend. As a player, Whitney Sr. scored a total of 1,448 points in his four years at the university. Seton Hall is also only 30 minutes from Roselle, where Whitney played high school ball.
Whatever he does next, Whitney will always be a Wildcat and BBN wishes him the best. Fans, current players and even Kentucky legend Derek Anderson have reinforced this on Twitter.