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Kentucky Basketball: Kahlil Whitney’s potential is limitless

Nick Irvin has seen and coached some of the most talented players in the country over the years as a Chicago Public League coach and his family’s Mac Irvin Fire AAU program. He’s not short on superlatives of Kahlil Whitney.

USA Basketball

The 2019 recruiting class for Kentucky’s basketball program became an intriguing talking point after the decommitment of four-star power forward DJ Jeffries.

Jeffries was the first signing of the class and potentially a good sign towards landing No. 1 prospect James Wiseman from Memphis; an infamous old stomping ground of John Calipari’s and the place that Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway hopes to turn back into a national powerhouse.

But, the sky isn’t falling in Lexington despite Jeffries’ father saying the ‘Cats were “unprofessional” in the recruiting/treatment of his son.

Despite the loss of Jeffries, the ‘Cats landed a wing that very well could become one of the best players in the entire 2019 class and a potential lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Kahlil Whitney (Roselle Catholic/Roselle, N.J.) has been on a rocket towards the top of the recruiting boards across the country with his size, his intensity, his scoring and his motor over the summer with the Mac Irvin Fire; one of the AAU Circuit’s biggest powers.

How good is Whitney? There’s a prominent coach in Chicago that thinks he’s the best player in this class already.

“He’s a phenomenal person,” Morgan Park head basketball coach Nick Irvin said in a phone interview. Irvin’s family runs the famous Mac Irvin Fire program and has helped mold players like Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Meyers Leonard over more recent years.

“He’s a very good kid. He comes from a very good family background. He just loves life. He’s very, very coachable and he wants you to get on him. Basketball is second to none for him. Pound-for-pound, he’s the best player in the country.”

As of now, Whitney is No. 19 on 247 Sports’ big board of 2019 prospects and with a senior season still left to be played, there’s no reason to think Whitney won’t continue to rise up the board.

“His growth, from what I’ve seen since his freshman year until now is crazy. He can play the game.

“His athleticism is second to none. He’s so explosive. He shoots the ball at a high level. He can shoot it, he’s a decent defender that I think can be a great defender with his size and length.”

Thoughts: What’s interesting to me personally is watching Whitney play. He looks like a kid that is still growing into his body and he’s already a legitimate 6-foot-6 and a shade under 200 pounds.

With his game itself, it looks like everything comes easy to him. He doesn’t appear to be trying too hard, even with his intensity. There’s a Darius Miller/Doron Lamb-type smoothness to his game. He can drive with his length and score through contact like Miller and he can shoot from the perimeter like Lamb and Miller could in Lexington.

One of Irvin’s favorite talking points about Whitney is that he always wants to play. It doesn’t matter who. It doesn’t matter where. He just wants to play basketball and compete.

“No matter if he’s playing good or bad, he’s always playing hard,” Irvin said. “That’s just the way he is. He’s never not trying. With the way things are going for him, he could really be an All-Star over the next 15 years he’s playing the game. That’s just how much talent he has.”

That effort and that motor is why Irvin is so high on his program progidy. “He never takes a play off,” Irvin said. “I’ve seen him on nights where he’s not shooting well, but he’s still competing. He’ll take on the other team’s best player and shut him down because that’s just who he is.”’s Corey Evans told the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts in an interview that Whitney is “a dog. He’s the definition of an alpha.”

More thoughts: Obviously, every player looks like an elite player on a YouTube mixtape. The thing I’ve liked seeing on his highlights is his footwork. He sets his feet well with his jumper and gets to wherever he wants to shoot on the floor. On his drives, he’s not shy with contact. He’ll take it.

There’s a look of maturity from Whitney on the offensive end. If you don’t see Miller or Lamb, try watching Hamidou Diallo during his time with the ‘Cats. There’s a sense of more polish with Whitney and his game compared to Diallo and his crazy-ridiculous athletic ability.

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