By LARRY VAUGHT
It’s never easy for star high school basketball players to make the transition to big-time college basketball. However, UK freshman Kahlil Whitney is one of the few players I can remember admitting that he never “gave any real thought” to playing defense in high school.
That is a bit of a surprise with Whitney’s length and athleticism — and many also expected him to be a potential lockdown defender at UK this season.
Kentucky coach John Calipari was not surprised by Whitney’s admission because he knows many players have the same thought process in high school.
“How about this? How about not being delusional? Like self-evaluating at his age. Wow!” Calipari said about Whitney. “They (other players) don’t. And the people around them are telling them they’re the best, and you’re this, and its everybody else, and enabling.
“It’s not happening there. When I talked to him about what I’m looking for and he and I have a conversation, I walk out of the room and I go, ‘Wow, really smart kid. Really smart.’”
Whitney is averaged 5.6 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. He has five steals, five assists and 10 turnovers in seven games. He’s shooting just 36.8 percent from the field, including 33 percent from 3-point range, and only 53.3 percent at the foul line.
Calipari still thinks Whitney just needs time.
“Sometimes it may take a month. I know how talented Kahlil is. I know how talented Keion (Brooks) is. But they got to get away from anything offensive and be defensive, and let the offense come. That’s the easiest thing. How about this, rebound like crazy,” Calipari said.
“That’s effort stuff, it’s not skill stuff. But I’m telling you, they’re both terrific basketball players. Here’s the greatest thing, with Nate (Sestina) being out, they’re both going to have their chances to do it.”
He would like for Whitney to play about 25 minutes per game — he’s averaging 19.5 now.
“He needs to be out there 25 minutes to figure this out. If he does the job defensively, he stays in,” Calipari said. “And then figure out how you’re going to play offensively, what you’re comfortable doing.”