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Kahlil Whitney selected to Julius Erving Award Preseason Watch List

Kahlil Whitney selected to Julius Erving Award Preseason Watch List

Kentucky freshman Kahlil Whitney is a high-flyer, so it is only right that he be in consideration for an award with Julius Erving’s name on it.

That is the case today as Whitney was selected to the Preseason Watch List for the Julius Erving Award, given annually to the best small forward in college basketball.

Whitney is one of 20 names on the preseason list, and one of only two from the SEC, along with Florida freshman Scottie Lewis, who was ranked one spot ahead of Whitney in their high school class.

KSR talked to Whitney prior to Big Blue Madness. Check it out:


2019-2020 SEC Basketball Preview

© Vasha Hunt | USATSI

In life, there are times when two completely different things can both be true. Take SEC basketball for example. It will never have the history or get the media love of the ACC or Big 12 (for reasons, unknown to me). But there is also no debating that no conference has taken a larger leap onto the national scale than this league either.

As the old saying goes “it just means more.” And that’s certainly the case in SEC hoops.

The facts aren’t debatable.

Three years ago, this league sent three teams to the Elite Eight. In 2018, they sent a league record eight teams to the NCAA Tournament. Last year, it was seven NCAA Tournament teams, with four in the Sweet 16, two in the Elite Eight and one in the Final Four. Oh, and if things weren’t crazy enough, in a league where there were already seven coaches who’ve made a Final Four (SEVEN!!), Alabama (Nate Oats, Arkansas (Eric Musselman) and Texas A&M (Buzz Williams) all made major coaching upgrades this off-season.

So why do I bring that up? It’s because as the media descends upon Birmingham for SEC Media Day today, it’s clear that this league has never been stronger. And it has never been harder to figure out.

Below is my 2019-2020 SEC preview. But if I’m being perfectly honest, after speaking with coaches both across the league and the country, this might be the toughest conference in the country to figure out. After you get past the top three (Kentucky, Florida and LSU) there really isn’t all that much difference between any of these teams.

Therefore, don’t get mad if I have your team a spot or two lower than other media members. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the team picked to finish sixth this year could finish 11th, and the team picked to finish 11th could finish fourth or fifth. The SEC is insanely deep this year and all but impossible to predict.

Still, with SEC Media Day today, let’s do our best to make sense of these rankings:

1) Kentucky Wildcats

Key Returnees: Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, E.J. Montgomery, Nick Richards
Key Departures: PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro
Key Additions: Tyrese Maxey, Kalil Whitney, Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen, Johnny Juzang, Nate Sestina (grad transfer)

I’ve written about Kentucky so much this off-season, that I’m just ready for things to tip-off and for there to be actual games to react to. But in case I haven’t made it abundantly clear in all my other preseason writing, I really like the makeup of this team.

I like that that for the first time in a long time, the Wildcats have veterans. I like that they have a chance to be elite defensively, with Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley at the top of the key. And I like that they could be John Calipari’s best three-point shooting team ever with Johnny Juzang, Nate Sestina, Quickley and Maxey.

Honestly, there is a lot to like here and not all that much weakness (maybe another big man, but I personally don’t think that’s as big a deal as others do). Because of it, I see no reason why the Wildcats won’t win their fourth SEC regular season title in the last six years.

2) Florida Gators

Key Returnees: Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, Keyontae Johnson
Key Departures: KeyVaughn Allen, Kevarrius Hayes, Jalen Hudson, Keith Stone (transfer)
Key Additions: Scottie Lewis, Tre Mann, Omar Payne, Kerry Blackshear Jr. (grad transfer)

Listen, we all know the story here. The Gators’ backcourt was already loaded, and the one thing that they were missing – at least as of three months ago – was size down low. And Florida flipped that narrative when they got the best big man available on the grad transfer market, Kerry Blackshear, to come to Gainesville.

Now, when you add Blackshear to a team that already had a steady point guard (Andrew Nembhard), elite shooting with Noah Locke and a potential shutdown perimeter player in Scottie Lewis, you have a team that is not only capable of winning the SEC, but also winning the national championship.

Nembhard will have be more consistent than he was a year ago, but that’s really just being nitpicky if anything. The Gators are absolutely loaded headed into the season.

(more…)


What is Joel Justus hinting at on Instagram?

What is Joel Justus hinting at on Instagram?

Kentucky basketball assistant coach Joel Justus is making a statement in as few words possible.

This afternoon on his Instagram page, Justus posted an image of him and fellow UK assistant Tony Barbee smiling and laughing at the Kentucky basketball women’s clinic this past weekend.

The caption? No words, only a single shushing face emoji.

Take a look:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

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A post shared by Joel Justus (@ukcoachjustus) on

So what does it mean?

This weekend, Kentucky hosted the likes of 2020 No. 2 prospect Cade Cunningham and 2021 top-three prospect Paolo Banchero on official visits, and the buzz going around Lexington since the weekend is that UK is in prime position to land both elite prospects.

Could it be a slight self-pat on the back due to UK simply picking up momentum with both Cunningham and Banchero, along with the Wildcats being favored to land 2021 five-star guard Devin Askew?

Did Kentucky receive a commitment from one of the three? Two? All three? Is one about to go public?

Or, could the Kentucky assistant coach literally be “shushing” those who criticized both Justus and Barbee on the recruiting trail? Barbee was the lead recruiter for 2020 five-star guard Terrence Clarke and was instrumental in landing his commitment. He’s also the lead recruiter for Cunningham.

As for Justus, he was the lead recruiter for 2020 five-star guard BJ Boston and played a massive role in his commitment to Kentucky, as well.

We talk about Swaggy Cal quite a bit, but give credit to the rest of Kentucky coaching staff. They’re all recruiting like mad men and have certainly earned the right to have some swagger, as well…


Kentucky picked to win the SEC, three Wildcats on preseason All-SEC teams

Kentucky picked to win the SEC, three Wildcats on preseason All-SEC teams

Kentucky basketball has been selected to win its sixth regular-season SEC title under John Calipari in the 2019-20 preseason media poll.

This afternoon, it was announced that the league’s media voted on UK to take home the program’s 49th overall regular-season title, the 15th time since the 1998-99 season the Wildcats have been named the overall preseason favorite.

Calipari, who is in his eleventh season at Kentucky, has led the Wildcats to regular-season SEC titles in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017, with UK also claiming the SEC Tournament title six times in that span in 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

In addition to the SEC preseason poll, three Kentucky Wildcats were selected to preseason All-SEC teams. Sophomore guard Ashton Hagans was picked to the first team, while freshman guard Tyrese Maxey and sophomore forward EJ Montgomery were tabbed to the second season. Hagans also received one vote for preseason SEC Player of the Year, with former Kentucky target and current Florida Gator Kerry Blackshear Jr. earning those honors.

Hagans is joined by Blackshear, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, Ole Miss’ Breein Tyree and Mississippi State’s Reggie Perry on the first team. Joining Maxey and Montgomery on the second team were Alabama’s Kira Lewis Jr., Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe, Florida’s Andrew Nembhard, LSU’s Skylar Mays and Tennessee’s Lamonté Turner.

Hagans shared 2019 SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors last season after picking up 61 steals as a freshman.

Kentucky will begin exhibition play with the program’s annual Blue-White Game scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Friday on the SEC Network. From there, the Wildcats will participate in two more exhibition games against Georgetown College on Oct. 27 and Kentucky State on Nov. 1.

UK will then open up the regular season in New York for the State Farm Champions Classic against Michigan State at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.


N’Faly Dante ruled ineligible at Oregon, hopes to re-enroll in December

Photo: Courtside Films

Former Kentucky basketball target and current Oregon Duck N’Faly Dante has been ruled ineligible going into the 2019-20 season.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Dante has been informed that he will be ineligible to start the season “because the NCAA missed his clearance date.”

“I left my home four years ago with a dream and three goals: Graduate from high school, attend university, and play college basketball. None of that has changed,” Dante said in a statement, via Charania. “On December 14, 2019, I plan to enroll and play college basketball with the University of Oregon. I have completed my academic requirements and am currently waiting for the NCAA Eligibility process to finalize. We are hopeful this will conclude soon and have asked the NCAA to keep my goal of a December 14, 2019 enrollment date in mind.

“Every prospective student athlete that purchases an NCAA Eligibility Center ID, regardless of their gender or origin, should be entitled to a timely and transparent process that’s in line with the student’s targeted enrollment date,” Dante continued.

Back on August 13, the five-star center announced he would be reclassifying to the class of 2019 and signing with Oregon over offers from Kentucky, LSU, Kansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State, among others.

If the NCAA clears Dante by his target deadline of December 14, the 6-foot-11 big man will miss Oregon’s first nine games of the season against Fresno State, Boise State, Memphis, UT-Arlington, Houston, Seton Hall, Hawaii, and Michigan.

Sources told KSR two weeks ago that Oregon was “struggling” to get Dante eligible and that the possibility of the former five-star prospect missing the entire season was on the table.

Dante is considered a potential lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.