By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky was down to only eight healthy scholarship players after freshman Kahlil Whitney abruptly left the team about 10 days ago with no clear plans about his future.
In Saturday’s loss at Auburn, Kentucky got in serious foul trouble with guards Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley having to go to the bench during the game with foul woes and both eventually fouled out.
Could Whitney have helped if he had still been on the team?
You want to say yes, but I am guessing no because he really had not done anything in the past two months to show he would have. Sure he was a five-star recruit ranked in the top 10 nationally in his recruiting class by some and projected as a potential 2020 NBA first-round draft pick by others before he ever played a game at UK.
But the 6-6 athletic Whitney averaged 3.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 13 minutes per game at UK before leaving the program. He didn’t really make a significant impact in any phase of the game and he had chances because he started games early in the season before it became obvious others were contributing a lot more than him.
It just seems his heart was always on the next level — the NBA — and not UK. Or at least that was the plan of some close to him.
Many thought he would transfer to another school, apply for some type of hardship waiver from the NCAA and hope to play next year. But his farewell statement made me think he was through with college basketball even though apparently a lot of schools would like to have him.
However, recently 247Sports recruiting director Evan Daniels noted recently that Whitney is “leaning towards bypassing his college eligibility to put his name into June’s NBA Draft.”
Could he get drafted? Maybe but it sure seems unlikely. Remember Wenyen Gabriel? He left UK after two years, was undrafted and had to journey through the G-League. Friday he started a game for the Portland Trailblazers and is making about $1.5 million this year. But he did a lot more at UK than Whitney ever did and it took him two tough years to get into the league after two years at UK.
So here’s wishing Whitney well if he does try the NBA but any UK fan thinking he might have helped against Auburn should probably give that up as fool’s gold, too, because I just don’t think he could have made any difference in an environment he has shown he’s not ready for.