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How Sacha Killeya-Jones helped Virginia win a championship

Killeya-Jones originally committed to play for Tony Bennett before changing his mind and coming to Lexington.

Jeremy Chisenhall

What if I told you that former Kentucky Wildcats forward Sacha Killeya-Jones had a major impact on the 2019 college basketball national championship? As hard as it is to believe, it’s true.

SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell did a piece on how Killeya-Jones’ recruitment led to Virginia getting the man who would help them win a championship.

Back in 2016, when Virginia Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett was putting together what will now be known as a legendary recruiting class, he only had four scholarships to work with. One for Kyle Guy, one for Ty Jerome, one for Jay Huff, and you guessed it, one for Sacha Killeya-Jones.

National champion and future lottery pick De’Andre Hunter was not committed at the time, and Killeya-Jones effectively took his spot.

In the end, Killeya-Jones decided against staying close to his Virginia Episcopal High School and playing for Tony Bennett. He instead came to Kentucky, where he played only two years before transferring NC State, only to then leave the Wolfpack program abruptly for reasons unknown.

This is where the story gets especially interesting. Killeya-Jones choosing to not be a Cavalier would actually prove to have a positive ripple effect that changed the Cavalier program forever. That free spot ultimately was filled by Hunter, and the rest is history.

Hunter was a lanky recruit coming out of high school, but was still considered a top 100 ranked player. However, no one really expected him to blossom into a sure lottery pick like that he is now. Currently, he is projected by most mock draft services to go somewhere between picks 5-10 in June’s draft.

Kentucky fans would freely admit that this is not exactly the type of influence that they’d hoped Killeya-Jones would have on a national title run during his tenure in college. It is still unclear what led to his exit from NC State, ending his college career in disappointing fashion.

Do you think De’Andre Hunter owes Killeya-Jones a thank you?