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A look back at the UK transfers under John Calipari

Quade Green’s decision to transfer is yet another early departure from Lexington for a highly recruited player.

Monmouth v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the news broke that Quade Green, a former McDonald’s All-American, would be transferring from the Kentucky basketball program.

It does not necessarily come as a surprise when you pause to take a closer look at the unfavorable circumstances that Green was up against. But it still opens the door for more negativity surrounding the basketball team. Even though this most recent transfer may be in both parties' best interest, there is now a pattern of highly ranked players choosing to leave their careers at Kentucky behind.

Now in his tenth season, Coach John Calipari has had eight transfers under his reign. That is approaching one per season, and depending on how this season goes it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think another may happen.

In response to Green’s departure, Calipari tweeted, “We haven’t had many guys leave.” I guess that depends on what you are using as the measuring stick.

Here is a look back at the players who have transferred from Kentucky while playing under Coach Cal:

Darnell Dodson, 2010 - Southern Miss

After leaving Kentucky, Dodson became like an inside joke for the BBN. His presence on a team with such incredible talent always seemed to be bizarre so it was no shock when he opted to leave UK. There have been an abundance of interesting stories about Dodson off the court, including some run-ins with law enforcement. Calipari, rightfully so, saw the writing on the wall and got Dodson out of Lexington.

Stacey Poole, 2011 - Georgia Tech

Poole may be the most forgettable player in the Calipari era as his time playing in a Kentucky jersey was very short. He transferred to Georgia Tech where he only played an average of about 8 minutes per game in his two seasons there.

Ryan Harrow, 2013 - Georgia State

Harrow’s situation seems like the closest example to that of Quade Green’s decision to transfer. Harrow had tremendous talent and was highly regarded around the program before he became the starting point guard. On the court, however, he just seemed to be in over his head and unable to compete at a high enough level with consistency.

Harrow’s struggles were painful to watch at times during the 2012-2013 season, and it became a forgone conclusion that he would not be back in Lexington the following year. Harrow transferred to Georgia State where he scored over 1,000 points in just 54 games and was named to the first-team all Sun-Belt in both of his seasons at Georgia State. His senior year, he led his team to the Sun-Belt regular season and tournament championship. In July of 2018, Harrow signed to play with a professional team from Greece.

I always felt bad for how it went down with Ryan Harrow, but you cannot blame anyone for this one. He was given the opportunity and it just didn’t work out for him.

Kyle Wiltjer, 2013 - Gonzaga

Wiltjer grew up in the Northwest region of the United States, so it was already kind of unusual that he made his way to Lexington. His game also didn’t quite fit the mold of a typical Kentucky recruit and his athleticism surely didn’t. But man, Kyle Wiltjer could play some ball. When he left it really had me bummed because I think he would have really been an all-time memorable player for the Cats if he stuck it out.

But you can hardly argue against his thought process considering Wiltjer went on to play at Gonzaga and was named Sport Illustrated preseason player of the year. He averaged over 20 points per game in his senior year and had a career-high 45 points in a game back in 2015. Wiltjer spent some time with the Houston Rockets and other teams before transitioning to overseas basketball. He currently plays in the Euro-League with a team from Spain.

Kyle Wiltjer was a special player, and his is the transfer that I personally would like to take back more than any other.

Charles Matthews, 2016 - Michigan

Time will tell, but when we look back the decision Charles Matthews made when he transferred from Kentucky may be one of the bigger moments in the Calipari era. Matthews has transformed himself into one of the top players in America and he even led the Wolverines to the national title game a season ago. Oh, and they are ranked in the top 5 this year as well with Matthews averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds per game.

Not many Kentucky fans believed that Charles Matthews was capable of what he is showing at Michigan. It’s hard to not see this as a bad look for Cal and Kentucky when a player leaves then takes a major step forward. Kentucky teams from the last two seasons could really have used Matthews’ services. I would be lying if I said it isn’t tough to watch Matthews play now and not think about what could have been.

Marcus Lee, 2016 - California

This one cut deep for many fans because Marcus Lee was a very charismatic person who thrived in his interaction with people. He also was a McDonald’s All-American who showed bright potential during his career as a Wildcat. Lee could run the floor, block shots, and finish at the rim.

He was limited in some ways skill-wise, but there is no doubt he would have been a helpful piece for the Cats the following year. Lee finished his career at Cal where he averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds. He spent some time with the Cavs and Heat, but is currently bouncing around the G-League.

Sacha Killeya-Jones, 2018 - NC State

SKJ also checks the box as another McDonald’s All-American to elect to transfer. He came to Kentucky as a raw talent, but was showing considerable fundamental improvement down the stretch of last season. Remember his monster put back dunk in the SEC tournament? His decision to transfer surprised me, specifically because of how much his role was increasing late last year. I expect him to do work at NC State when he is eligible to play next season.

Quade Green, 2018 - ?

Most agree that staying at Kentucky was probably not in Green’s best interest. There are two other (taller) point guards who have more upside and clearly the upper hand for minutes going forward. I was never a fan of the idea that Quade Green could play off the ball, not at his size.

The rumors of Green’s camp saying that he was being misused are likely accurate. It was surprising when he chose to come back this season, and it only makes sense to transfer now to gain quicker eligibility. I believe his departure could be more impactful than people think considering this team is not deep enough to overcome much else. I liked the idea of Green coming off the bench in a March game if UK needed it. Now who will fill that role? Jemarl Baker? Yikes.

Hopefully Quade Green has success wherever he lands. He will be yet another McDonald’s All-American to leave Lexington in search of greener pastures.