By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky commit Kahlil Whitney grew up watching Chicago natives Anthony Davis and Tyler Ulis star for Kentucky.
He played his freshman season in Chicago for coach Alonzo Crowder before going to New Jersey to live with his father where he now plays for Roselle Catholic High School. When Whitney got to New Jersey he “got to rub shoulders” with former UK standout Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Crowder was only a second-year head coach at a non-powerhouse Chicago high school when Whitney opted to play for him rather than a traditional power. The coach said they helped each other build their brands.
“We developed him and got him going and then everybody starting noticing he was going to basically an unknown basketball school,” Crowder said. “But that’s him. He’s a different type of animal. He just wants to be the best. He didn’t want to play with other great players he knew. He wanted to compete against those guys.
“Cal said one of Kahlil’s most attractive traits was his competitive edge. I knew when he came to play for us he was a different type kid. He’s one of those guys that wants to put the team on his back.”
Crowder said Whitney was blessed with big hands, great athleticism and a non-stop motor. The coach said he viewed Whitney like a Bentley, a luxury automobile.
“It takes six months to design a Bentley and put it on the road,” Crowder said. “It took four or five months to work on Kahlil’s skill sets. He was able to put the ball on the floor, shoot the mid-range shot, hit a 3. I knew he had all the pieces. We just had to polish things and he changed tremendously from his eighth grade year to his freshman season.
“When he decided to move to New Jersey with his dad, they took the next set of steps to make him even more elite. He’s going on his third year there and he’s an even better player now.”
Crowder said he’ll always appreciate the trust Whitney’s mother and grandparents had in him and he developed a close relationship with the family.
“I did my best to do right by him and them and make sure he was protected when he was with me,” Crowder, who is now the head coach at Crane High School in Chicago, said. “We spent a ton of hours in the gym. We watched games. We went out to eat after workouts. We maintained a connection even when he went to Jersey. I get to seem him on the (AAU) circuits. We text and stay in touch. I check in on him to see how things are going.
“I’ve already told my wife we have to go down to Kentucky for some games when he gets there. For him to get the chance to play on that big stage is going to be an amazing experience for him and for Kentucky fans to get to see him play.”