Kahlil Whitney Has the Potential to Help Take #19 Kentucky Higher

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Perhaps yesterday’s dramatic overtime win, 78-70, over arch-rival and #3 team in the nation Louisville is exactly what the #19 Kentucky Wildcats need to kickstart their season. It’s very rare for UK to have three losses (Evansville, Utah and Ohio State) by Christmas, but here we are.

They narrowly avoided a fourth, and that should give them a lot of confidence and momentum heading into the SEC opener on Saturday, at home against Mizzou. Now the question remains, what will it take to get Kahlil Whitney going? UK coach John Calipari has said that in order for UK to be all that they can be, Kahlil Whitney needs to be all that he can be. 

“I’ve told the team, we’ve got a ceiling unless he plays for us,” Calipari told the media earlier this month.

“We don’t have anybody like him. He’s the one.”

Yes, he is the one; quite often the most athletically gifted one on the floor whenever and wherever he is playing. The Chicago native (Eric Solorio Academy High School for his freshman year, Roselle Catholic High School in Roselle, New Jersey for the other three years of prep ball) was a consensus 5-star recruit, McDonald’s All-American and MVP for the Iverson Classic.

However, he’s not really in the rotation right now in Lexington. He only played two minutes yesterday and just 10 against Ohio State last weekend. He hasn’t played more than 20 in a game since way back on November 18 versus Utah Valley.

“Didn’t play Johnny (Juzang) and Kahlil (Whitney) a whole lot because the game didn’t dictate it,” Calipari said after the game.

“I was coaching to try to win the game, not just try to get guys in. But those two are integral parts of what we’re going to end up having to do this year.”

Whitney is obviously an elite among the elites in athleticism, but has a way to go with his skill set and feel for the game. Some have compared him to a James Jones or Korleone Young, but he’s got to improve his ball-handling in order to get there.

He’s a true three (who looks up to Lebron James) with the potential to play both guard and in the post, and maybe he’ll find his way as the season wears on. Thus far in the campaign, he’s averaging 4.8 points per game and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting only 41% FG.

Still, the tremendous upside is definitely there and Cal has recruited and then brought along superstars from Chicago before. L.A. Lakers center Anthony Davis went from the South Side/Perspective Charter School to Lexington where he won the player of the year award, a national title and became the #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.

Tyler Ulis was a McDonald’s All-American from Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights. He was an All-American, SEC Player of the Year and he went to a Final Four.

And then of course you have Derrick Rose, from Simeon high school, who played for Calipari at Memphis for one season, then went on to become the #1 overall NBA Draft pick in 2008. He won the NBA MVP in 2011.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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