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Kentucky Basketball Preview: Kahlil Whitney will be a versatile weapon for Wildcats

The elite 6-6 forward brings versatility, athleticism, and a will to win.

Kahlil Whitney UK Athletics

Kahlil Whitney

  • Position: Forward
  • Class: Freshman
  • Measurements: 6-6, 210 lbs.
  • Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
  • School: Roselle Catholic (New Jersey)
  • Recruit Rankings: No. 11 nationally, No. 2 SF via 247Sports Composite Rankings

The Kentucky Wildcats have been fueled by elite small forwards over the course of the last couple of seasons.

While John Calipari struggled for a time to reel in a true small forward, he’s had a lot of success recently, including Keldon Johnson and Kevin Knox.

The one-and-done recruits have always been a staple of Coach Cal’s plan, but the Cats have been at their best when they have a steady and balanced lineup with a true point guard, true small forward, and a rim-protector big man.

This season, that true small forward with a ton of bounce and potential is Kahlil Whitney.

Whitney comes into Kentucky for his freshman season after being ranked in the top 15 of all the major recruiting services. He held offers from the Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Kansas Jayhawks, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, and Oregon Ducks, among others.

However, the 6-6 forward was destined for Lexington as soon as Calipari pulled the trigger on an offer. UK offered and Whitney visited two weeks later. He made his commitment official less than a week after leaving campus, but he actually committed on the visit.

The consensus five-star prospect was named to the Naismith High School Boys’ All-America Third Team and secured All-USA Today New Jersey First Team honors as well.

At Roselle Catholic, Isaiah Briscoe’s alma mater, he averaged 19.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, scoring in double figures in all 29 games during his senior season with 11 games of 20 or more points. All in all, he scored more than 2,000 points during his high school career .

Whitney participated in the Nike EYBL, where he averaged 21.1 points and 7.2 rebounds. He also played in the McDonald’s All-American Game, the Jordan Brand Classic Game, and the Iverson Roundball Classic.

It’s hard to evaluate a player based simply off their performances in an all-star game, but Whitney was unstoppable in the Iverson Classic, where he was named co-MVP after scoring 38 points in the contest.

He did, however, struggle in the McDonald’s All-American Game (two points, one rebound), which made me nervous. The first thought that came to my mind was Whitney didn’t play well with other elite players, but his showing at the Iverson Classic quickly cleared that up.

Whitney also had a great showing at the prestigious Nike Skills Academy, and ESPN’s Jonathan Giovanni had his own breakdown of the versatile forward:

“Whitney was arguably the most impressive player in the first evening of scrimmages, and though his performance tapered off afterward, he still had an eye-opening weekend,” wrote GIovanni. “Part of that is due to his 207-pound physique, which boasts measurements similar to those of Andre Roberson and Thaddeus Young.

“Whitney’s athleticism stood out consistently. He put his ahead above the rim on numerous occasions, both finishing lobs and creating shots himself. At this stage, his physical tools are best utilized on the defensive end. He has the strength to put a body on almost any big man, but the length and mobility to slide with perimeter players using rangy strides affords him the type of multipositional versatility NBA teams covet.’

Here’s what 247 Sports’ Scouting Report had to say about the future first-round NBA Draft pick:

In the mold of a quintessential high-level NBA scoring wing. Quality height at 6-6 with strength and explosive athleticism. Proficient scorer at all three levels. Effective in transition and in the half court as a scorer. Not a distributor and prone to turn the ball over excessively. Rebounds position well and has potential as a defender. Lottery pick-type potential.

Whitney will probably be inconsistent as a freshman, like most, but his athleticism and potential is off the charts. His best feature this season for UK will be his versatility. He’ll probably start at the 3, but he will also play quite a bit of small-ball 4. He’s very, very strong and can bully defenders in the paint. He needs to develop his three-point shot, but he has a nice mid-range game.

Finally, Whitney is expected to be an elite defender. He has the size, quickness, and competitive drive to hopefully match up with anyone on the court. The Cats had hoped for the same from Keldon Johnson last season, but Whitney is quicker, stronger and has more bounce.

Kentucky’s offense will flourish under the elite guard play, but Whitney brings versatility, athleticism, elite defense, and a hard-working attitude to the table.

In what will likely be his lone season donning the blue and white, I can’t wait to see what the “Dragon” has in store.