By LARRY VAUGHT
Most Kentucky fans were surprised when freshman Kahlil Whitney left the Wildcats in late January.
Sure, his playing time and production had decreased but who quits with two months left in the season?
I reached out to two recruiting writers who have a terrific feel nationally to see if they were surprised when Whitney departed.
David Sisk, basketball recruiting writer for Kentucky, Minnesota and Vanderbilt Rivals.com sites, was and wasn’t.
“I was surprised by the timing, but not shocked by the decision. He sent out a tweet the day after the Louisville game that raised my antenna,” Sisk said.
“He was playing sparingly and the last straw may have been when Johnny Juzang passed him in the lineup. I had begun watching his reactions on the bench the last few games. When that happens, you know a player is on shaky ground.”
Krysten Peek, a basketball contributor for Yahoo Sports and Rivals.com, was expecting Whitney would leave Kentucky but not when he did.
“I was surprised with the timing. Kahlil went from a projected first round draft pick to not even being mentioned in mock drafts during his short time at Kentucky, so a change had to happen,” Peek said.
Neither recruiting writer expects him to play college basketball again.
“From what I heard about his academic interest at Kentucky, I don’t expect him to try to get into another college, especially with the timing of his exit,” Sisk said.
“I think he’ll definitely test the NBA waters and participate in pre-draft workouts and the NBA combine if he gets an invite,” Peek said. “Kahlil’s athleticism is off the charts and he could shine in that kind of showcase and environment.”
Whitney was a McDonald’s All-American and UK’s highest rated recruit in the freshman class. But as Peek noted, he went from a projected first-round NBA draft pick to the ninth man on UK’s roster.
“Every player struggles a little bit with the transition from high school to college and Kahlil was no exception,” Peek said. “The pace of the game is much faster and playing for a team like Kentucky comes with added stress and expectations.
“I think Kahlil got into his own head and when his playing time decreased, he shut down. Almost every player that commits to Kentucky is ‘the guy’ on their high school team so it’s a huge transition trying to find your place on a team full of five-stars.”
Sisk was a bit more blunt in his evaluation of what went wrong for Whitney.
“He did not have the skill set that he thought he did or his people around him thought he did,” Sisk said.
“I also hear that his work ethic did not fancy itself to improving his game. He did not have the humility to accept a role on the team.”