By ERIC LINDSEY, UK Athletics
Kentucky men’s basketball sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley announced his plans Monday to submit his name for the 2020 NBA Draft and forgo his remaining collegiate eligibility.
Quickley will head to the professional ranks after becoming one of the best scorers in college basketball in 2019-20. The 2020 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year led the Wildcats with 16.1 points per game and ended the season on a 20-game double-figure scoring streak.
“First and foremost, I want to thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with the talent to play the game of basketball,” Quickley said. “With God, all things are possible.
“I want to thank coach John Calipari, ‘Coach Cal,’ the entire UK coaching staff and administration, my brothers/teammates, and Big Blue Nation for all your love and support the past two years. I’m grateful for everyone that helped me along my journey.
“It saddens me that my brothers and I were not able to compete for the national championship this year due to circumstances beyond our control. But after praying about it and discussing it with my family, I’ve decided to forgo my remaining eligibility by declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft and signing with an agent.”
Quickley was named an All-American by several outlets after a breakout 2019-20 campaign. The Athletic, CBS Sports and Bleacher Report all tabbed the sophomore guard with All-America Third Team distinction.
“Immanuel was an absolute pleasure to coach over the last two years,” Calipari said. “I had as much fun coaching him and watching him grow than just about any player I’ve ever coached. Like some of our other guys that have gone on and done special things, like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Tyler Herro, he absolutely works his tail off. He takes his conditioning seriously, has unbelievable discipline, unwavering faith, confidence and spent just about all of his extra time in that gym.
“His reward: SEC Player of the Year, as voted on by the coaches. I’ve been in this league for 11 years and only had that happen three other times. Think about that with some of the kids we’ve had go through here.
“There’s no question in my mind that his growth in the NBA will be on the same path that it was here, which is steep. He is a wonderful, centered young man who has fought his way to the point of being a first-round draft pick. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does on that next level.”
Quickley was one of the key pieces behind Kentucky’s 25-6 season that included a 9-3 record vs. NCAA quadrant one teams and an SEC regular-season championship.
Quickley’s season will go down as one of the greatest development stories of the Calipari era. The Maryland native played in all 37 games during the 2019 Elite Eight season, but he did so primarily from a reserve role. After starting seven of the first eight games of the season, Quickley came off the bench the rest of the season and averaged 5.2 points per game with 30 3-pointers in 18.5 minutes per game.
One of four key returners on the 2019-20 squad, Quickley was expected to play a much larger role this season, but no one predicted he would be the SEC Player of the Year. He wasn’t picked for any preseason all-conference teams or player of the year watch lists.
Quickley’s steady approach and belief in what coaches call “the process” proved everybody wrong. He scored in double figures in 26 of the 30 games he played in and topped the 20-point plateau in eight. The 6-foot-3 guard made a team-high 62 3-pointers — including making a 3 in 28 games and 11 straight to end the season — and shot a team-high 42.8% from behind the arc after a slow start.
The Maryland native’s 20-game double-figure scoring streak to end the season is the best run since Malik Monk scored in double figures in 30 straight games during the 2016-17 season. During the 20-game stretch, Quickley scored 20 or more points eight times and made three or more 3-pointers seven times, including a career-high eight at Texas A&M.
Quickley won SEC Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks in late February/early March, becoming the first Wildcat in school history to win SEC Player of the Week consecutively (dating back to the 1984-85 season). He won three times total this season.
During the 20-game stretch of scoring in double figures, Quickley averaged 18.6 points to go along with 4.6 rebounds per game and 50 3-pointers while shooting 47.2% from long range. He poured in a career-high 30 points at Texas A&M and sunk a career-best eight 3-pointers to become the first UK player with 30 or more points since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 on Jan. 30, 2018, vs. Vanderbilt. He’s also the first player with back-to-back 25-plus-point games since Monk from Feb. 25-28, 2017. The eight 3s tied Monk, Jamal Murray and Eric Bledsoe for the most 3-pointers in a game during the Calipari era.
What those stats don’t fully reveal is just how clutch Quickley was. He became Kentucky’s go-to scorer late in games, breaking the will of more than a handful of opponents with daggers from beyond the arc and clutch free throws.
Two of the best examples were at LSU and at home vs. Florida. He scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the second half in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which included making all five field-goal attempts and dishing a pair of assists. At home vs. Florida, he scored 22 points in the second half, including 20 of Kentucky’s 28 points when the Wildcats fell behind 40-33. He finished with a game-high 26 points vs. the Gators.
Over the course of UK’s eight-game winning streak in February, in the second half alone, Quickley averaged 14.9 points, shot 56.4% from the field, 57.7% from 3-point range and 93.3% from the charity stripe.
Quickley made 92.3% at the free-throw line, which ranks second in school history, just behind Tyler Herro’s school record set in 2018-19 of 93.5%. That mark ranked first in the SEC and third in the nation. He enjoyed four different stretches of 17 or more consecutive makes (with a high of 24 straight and was 30 of 31 at the free-throw line this season when it was a two-possession game at any point with 3:00 or less to go or the game is in overtime.
Mirroring his even-keel approach, Quickley was Kentucky’s most consistent performer in hostile territory. He averaged a team-best 19.1 points in addition to 4.8 rebounds and 29 3-pointers (on 59.2% shooting) in UK’s 10 true road games.
Quickley was been highly decorated for his 2019-20 campaign:
- NABC All-District 20 Second Team
- The Athletic All-America Third Team
- ESPN’s Breakout Star of 2019-20
- CBS Sports All-America Third Team
- Bleacher Report All-America Third Team
- SEC Player of the Year (Coaches)
- All-SEC First Team (Associated Press/Coaches)
- U.S. Basketball Writers Association District IV Player of the Year
- USBWA All-District IV Team
- Three-time SEC Player of the Week