By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON —When he was in eighth-grade, Kahlil Whitney knew he wanted to play at the University of Kentucky. It wasn’t until a few years later he remembered writing a letter to his teacher informing her of his future aspirations.
“That story has always touched me because I forgot I wrote that letter,” he said. “When I went to my grammar school and the teacher came up waving her hand, I kind of remembered it, but forgot exactly what I said in the letter. She read it and it said I wanted to attend the University of Kentucky and I was just wearing a Kentucky jacket. It was one of those moments, like, ‘wow. I’m really here. I really made it.’”
Whitney, who also played wide receiver in football, considers his father his greatest influence and his most memorable moment to date was winning a state championship in high school. His father has always been his No. 1 fan and he also has a close bond with his grandfather.
“We used to watch the NBA, Kentucky and we pretty much used to watch everything basketball,” he said. “Football is huge, because football was my first sport. Just bonding with those guys was pretty amazing. I know they’re proud of me. I just can’t wait to get going.”
He has always admired former Kentucky standout Anthony Davis, who also grew up in Chicago.
“Kentucky has always been my dream school,” he said. “Anthony Davis, with him being from Chicago, me growing up in Chicago. I looked up to him. When he committed (to Kentucky), I was like, ‘man I just wanted to go to that school on blue.’”
Whitney’s journey to Kentucky wasn’t an easy one and featured several twists and turns. However, like former Kentucky standout Isaiah Briscoe, Whitney attended Roselle Catholic High School in Chicago and finished his prep career by playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game. He also played in the Jordan Brand Classic and the Iverson Roundball Classic.
“I am a very passionate player,” he said. “Winning is everything to me. I am going to leave it all on the floor. I pretty much do everything from rebounding to scoring. My biggest thing for me this year is to be one of the best defensemen in the country and to win.”
He’s also known as the “dragon,” a nickname given to him by his father Kelly, who played basketball at Seton Hall, when he was 17-years-old.
“My dad gave me that nickname at a tournament in Las Vegas,” he said. “I had a bad game and he cursed me out, gave me some words of encouragement. The next game I had 48 (points) and he was in the crowd screaming, ‘he’s a dragon’ and the next thing I know, everybody in the crowd was saying, that’s the dragon and stuff like that. I just went a long with it.”
So far, Whitney said Kentucky has lived up to his expectations and added the team is a close unit.
“(Kentucky) definitely has met the expectations, and more. Coach Cal told us when he recruited us that it was going to be hard. Day in and day out it, is a grind. … We are pretty close. We do everything together. I see no flaws, and off the court our bond is amazing.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari said Whitney “scores the ball naturally” and he’s also been known to dunk over people, including a principal during a visit to an elementary school recently.
“It was amazing,” he said. “I was just trying to put on a show for the kids and keep a smile on their faces. They’re kids — long day in school — they want to have some fun.”
As the regular season draws near, Whitney is learning on advice from his teammates and Davis.
“They’ve been through this already,” he said. “I’m asking those guys (questions). How to stay locked in and things like that. They tell me. … (Anthony Davis) said it was great and it’s hard — everything you think it’s going to be.”