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Basketball Recruiting News

Kahlil Whitney says UK visit was “great,” will decide in “the next couple of weeks”

(Photo: Jon Lopez / Nike)

Over the Weekend, the 5th ranked small forward in the 2019 class, Kahlil Whitney, took his visit to Lexington and Adam Zagoria caught up with him to discuss his visit.

In the interview with Zagoria, Whitney said “The visit was great…I watched a couple practices and a couple scrimmages. Went out to eat a couple times. Just being around campus, took a tour of the campus. Met Coach Cal and met the team.”

Whitney would have to team up with Dontaie Allen and Tyrese Maxey in the 2019 class, and when asked about playing with them Whitney said, “From Day One, he told me I could fit in the program, I could play in the program…He (Cal) said he could see me playing right by Tyrese, me and Tyrese. He hasn’t really talked that much about it; I’ve just been enjoying the process here. Just getting a feel of the campus, the players.”

Whitney has already spent some time around the guys on the team currently. Whitney was roommates with Ashton Hagans at the NBA Top 100 camp, and has played against Nick Richards and spent time around Tyler Herro.

Whitney recently made his short list of schools he could attend next year which included Kentucky, Illinois, Louisville, Oregon, Miami, Florida State, Georgetown, and SMU. When asked if he was going to take any more visits to other schools Whitney said, “I’m not sure yet. I’m going to talk to my dad when we get back home.” His dad reportedly said his son’s visit was going great.

Whitney may be closing in on a decision very soon, “a couple of weeks” in fact, according to Whitney. All signs look good for Kentucky.

Follow me on Twitter: @BrentW_KSR

Memphis Daily News thinks Penny Hardaway is about to leave John Calipari in the dust

Memphis Daily News thinks Penny Hardaway is about to leave John Calipari in the dust

Prepare to have a nice laugh on this beautiful Friday evening.

Earlier this week, John Calipari lost his first commitment as the head coach of Kentucky in 2019 small forward DJ Jeffries.

It was an ugly breakup, as Jeffries’ father came out and said Kentucky was “unprofessional” when they brought up the possibility of a decommitment. He followed it up by saying the top-50 recruit was “bothered” by the Kentucky coaching staff not watching him play in his final AAU game out in Las Vegas.

John Calipari indirectly addressed the decommitment in his press conference yesterday, saying he wants guys that “dream of playing at Kentucky.”

“We’ve been so fortunate and blessed that families have trusted us with their children, but this isn’t for everybody,” he said. “This is really hard, and you have to want this as bad as we want you. I am always looking for guys who have always dreamed of playing at Kentucky.”

Now that he’s back on the market, odds are very, very good Jeffries ends up at Memphis to play for his old AAU coach, Penny Hardaway.

“(Penny being at Memphis) was a factor,” Corey Jeffries said. “It was a big factor. We have a bond with Penny already. It’s not like we have to get re-acquainted with him.”

And now that it looks like Hardaway has “stolen” a Calipari recruit (if you ask Memphis fans, at least), the delusion of the Tigers headed back to glory has unleashed.

Don Wade of The Memphis Daily News wrote an article this afternoon about the inevitable rivalry unfolding between Calipari and Hardaway, where he said Jeffries’ decommitment was step one in Memphis becoming “special on a national level” once more, surpassing Coach Cal and Kentucky in the process.

It starts with the NBA factory narrative.

“Calipari’s long-held trump card was that he was the one college coach that could just about guarantee you go to the NBA and probably as a lottery pick,” Wade said. “That promise perhaps doesn’t carry the same juice it once did. Hardaway starred in the NBA. Miller had success there, too. They were players. And they’re younger.”

Wade then said Coach Cal didn’t know how to get players ready for the NBA.

“They simply have a sales pitch – we were there, we played the NBA game, we know how to make you ready – which Calipari doesn’t. At least not in direct comparison,” he said.

I’ll bet you $1.5 billion that he does.

No matter what happens with James Wiseman, Wade believes Penny breaks even with Coach Cal because of Jeffries, alone.

“If Hardaway gets both Jeffries and Wiseman, he wins. If he gets Jeffries and a couple of other elite recruits and Calipari only gets Wiseman, it’s at worst a stalemate,” he said.

I’ll let you in on a little secret… Wiseman is considered a consensus top-three recruit in the class of 2019, while Jeffries is listed as just a four-star on several recruiting sites. They aren’t even in the same stratosphere of talent and potential. One is a contender to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, while the other will be in college for two years, minimum.

Jeffries decommitted on Monday, and Calipari replaced him with a guy of nearly identical status just three days later. A kid that actually wanted to be here.

And if five-star, top-25 small forward Kahlil Whitney commits to Kentucky in the near future, as expected, the Cats will get two for the price of one. Not too shabby.

Oh, but it doesn’t end there. Kentucky’s apparent recruiting catastrophe is just a sign of what’s to come. Memphis is headed back to the promised land under Penny Hardaway, while Calipari will be left searching for leftovers.

“What might be possible in 2019 is something else altogether,” Wade said. “That recruiting class has the potential to again make Memphis special on a national level. And as a sweet bonus, leave John Calipari as college basketball’s most-pissed-off also-ran.

I’m sure Coach Cal is just shaking in his boots.

The wrath of Penny is (apparently) upon us, BBN. Take shelter.

John Calipari Indirectly Addressed D.J. Jeffries’ Decommittment

John Calipari didn’t want to talk about recruiting at yesterday’s pre-Bahamas news conference, but Coach Cal could not contain his thoughts just a few days after he received a decommittment for the first time at UK.

On Monday D.J. Jeffries reopened his recruitment.  The following day, the small forward’s father completed interviews with multiple Memphis media outlets.  In one instance he called the Kentucky coaching staff “unprofessional.”  In another, Corey Jeffries complained about the Cats’ absence in his son’s final AAU game.

John Calipari tends to stay away from recruiting players with vocal parents.  More importantly, he only recruits players who want to be at Kentucky.

“We’ve been so fortunate and blessed that families have trusted us with their children, but this isn’t for everybody. This is really hard, and you have to want this as bad as we want you. I am always looking for guys who have always dreamed of playing at Kentucky.”

Calipari also isn’t the type of guy to promise anyone playing time.

“You have to have a great faith in your own ability and confidence that you’re not – like I don’t promise anybody that they’ll start and play. Like, how much you’re going to shoot the ball. I just don’t do it with anybody, which some kids need that and that’s OK. I mean, you just wouldn’t be here. It’s the way we recruit. I’ve recruited the same way everywhere I’ve been. I think it’s been pretty good overall.”

Kentucky will move on without Jeffries.  Coach Cal doesn’t begrudge any player who decides UK isn’t the best place for them.

“I don’t get mad at anybody. You want to go somewhere else? I’m happy for you. Go.”

KSR Practice Report: It’s going to be a fun year

Hello, folks. It’s a glorious day when you get to watch college basketball and even though the football team hasn’t started its practices the basketball team is prepping for the Bahamas and have been practicing for a few days.

Wednesday Kentucky allowed nearly two dozen media members to check out the Cats before the Bahamas. UK is particular about what exactly we can post, but allow me to layout the format.

I’m going to post the players names below and keep a running blog of things that standout as they happen (although I can’t post this until practice is completed). So, each player is being discussed on their own timeline. That may come off as confusing but here’s an example: The first sentence about Quade Green is the first thing I noticed about Green. I may post three things about Herro before posting about Green, but each player’s timeline is unique.

Below that I will have positive team notes and negative team notes. These will just be overall impressions from this single practice. I wouldn’t get too excited or disappointed because of the sample size, but they’re worth posting.

And lastly I will have a “hmmmm” category. This will be random thoughts that I’m not sure where else to put.

(numbers are their jersey numbers):

0/ Quade Green:

  • Seems like his release is quicker this year. One moment you think he’s going to get into the paint and then he pulls up and shoots. It comes out of nowhere.
  • He’s moving much better without the ball. Far too often last year he’d just chill on the perimeter. This year he’s cutting and yelling at other guys to keep moving.
  • He’s really getting into the younger guy’s faces defensively. Hagans will try to bully him a bit and use his speed, but Quickley is having a tough time.

2/ Ashton Hagans:

  • Really bothering Immanuel Quickley guarding him in individual drills.
  • It’s laughable thinking Ashton should be heading into his senior year of high school. Looks so smooth in transition.
  • He’s been one of the most impressive players today. It hasn’t been one specific thing that has been great, but he’s doing a little bit of everything. He’s been great at getting into the paint and dishing.
  • He’s been good today but Calipari stopping and critiquing him more than other players. He may be the Karl-Anthony Towns type that gets criticized often because Cal knows how great he can be.
  • No other way around it- Hagans has been the best guard today. Green has been good but Hagans has impressed me.

3/ Keldon Johnson:

  • He has struggled a bit guarding guards, which has surprised me. It may speak to the speed of the guards but I’ve always considered Keldon a versatile defender.
  • We’ve heard so much about Johnson all summer but it’s been a quiet afternoon for the freshman. He hasn’t been bad or made many mistakes, but there’s just haven’t been too many “wow” plays.
  • Fans will love Johnson’s effort on rebounds. He will fly towards the ball if he has the read but if he doesn’t all he’s worried about is getting a body on a defender and getting him out of the way. It’s smart basketball.

4/ Sophomore Nick Richards:

  • Sophomore Nick Richards gets things started posting up Travis and scoring just above the block, showing his touch and some confidence.
  • Oh man, as soon as I type that he airballs a fade away from five feet.
  • Doing a good job blocking shots today. He’s certainly hunting them, which is getting him out of position at times but his timing has been great when actually going up for the ball.
  • As practice has continued Cal has gotten on sophomore Nick Richards for thinking too much. That seemed to be his problem last season.

5/ Immanuel Quickley:

  • Looks a little frustrated being guarded by Hagans but he can at times get a step on him. When Hagans or other defenders plays off Quickley isn’t hesitating shooting from deep.
  • Uh oh. First person to really get in trouble. He’s being a little careless with the ball and Quade is having some success defending him.
  • I have never seen a basketball player wear shorter shorts. Not even in pictures from the 1930s.

12/ Brad Calipari:

  • He has been draining threes in these scrimmages. Contested, fading away and with his feet not set. It’s a bad year for walk-ons with how deep UK is, but Brad has looked improved.

13/ Jemarl Baker: OUT. Calipari said he’s missed four or five practices because of swelling in his knee.

14/ Tyler Herro:

  • There isn’t a spot on the floor where he looks uncomfortable. God help me making this comparison: (for a few reasons- 1. It’s comparing a white guy to a white guy. 2. I don’t like the kid I’m comparing him to). He reminds me a little of Grayson Allen. His shooting ability will have defenders overplaying him, but he’s athletic, so he can get them off-balanced and draw fouls. He’s a smart player, but you won’t see him throwing baby temper tantrums and tripping everyone.
  • First guy to run over to teammates when they fall or slip.

22/ Reid Travis:

  • They’re not being shy about allowing him to step out and shoot threes.
  • Travis doing the same things he did throughout his career at Stanford. He’s a bull. He’s not the most accurate scorer inside but his misses will likely be rebounded and put back in.
  • He does such a good job drawing fouls. They’re not calling them often but he’s getting hacked virtually every trip down the floor.

23/ E.J. Montgomery:

  • Montgomery looks a good deal taller than P.J. and Reid. Second tallest and longest player on the team.
  • I’m impressed with his shot. All we heard in the spring and summer is how versatile he is and that seems to be true early in this practice.
  • Folks, Montgomery is going to hit a lot of 15-21 footers.

25/ P.J. Washington:

  • In five-on-five scrimmages he’s really trying to muscle Travis.  From a physicality standpoint at times it’s like watching Julius Randle play Julius Randle. Probably a ton of fouls but so much  muscle. At one point Travis fell to the floor because of a Washington shoulder.

Positive Team Notes:

  • I’ve really been impressed with UK’s shooting. This team just isn’t missing many shots. The guards and wings are hitting from deep and the bigs are being able to extend the floor.
  • It’s going to be so difficult to guard this team. So many players can get inside and that’s leading to other guys having wide-open shots when they collapse. Of course UK is scrimmaging man-to-man defense and that probably won’t be the case often. I expect UK to see plenty of zone this season.
  • I think this is a positive but HOLY SMOKES this practice is physical. Most physical UK practice I’ve ever seen and I’m typing this about 30 minutes into the thing.
  • Team appears to be in solid shape. This has been a physical and up-and-down practice but there hasn’t been much huffing and puffing. I actually haven’t notice any player looking dead tired.
  • UK ending practice with free throws. Cal likes to make sure his guys are nice and tired. I’m keeping my eyes on P.J. and Reid and they’re making nearly all of them. SGA getting in P.J.’s ear.

Negative Team Notes:

  • This is an August practice and at times it shows. I’ve seen several open practices over the last seven years and this one at times looks more chaotic than any I’ve seen. Calipari seems to be asking more out of his guys, but that’s tough on the freshmen. Sometimes he slow things down to teach the freshmen and the older guys look a little disinterested. It’s not that huge of a deal but there’s a clear learning curve and it’s a great thing they’re getting this extra time to figure it out.
  • This team will be able to guard elite guards and elite bigs will be swallowed up by this frontcourt, but I’m curious outside of Johnson who will be able to guard elite wings. Johnson hasn’t be phenomenal defensively (although it’s just one practice), but outside of Johnson I’m not sure where Cal will turn if a team has two great wings or Johnson gets in foul trouble.


  • P.J. Washington wearing light pink shoes.
  • UK running Quade Green, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, P.J. Washington and E.J. Montgomery as the first five. I doubt that’s UK’s starting lineup, but it’s worth noting.
  • SGA and Kevin Knox are in the gym just taking in practice. A few times Calipari has stopped practice to just shout something at those two. Just imagine those two still in UK jerseys this season after what they did in the summer league.
  • Shai looks like he wants to join the practice. Knox is chilling at the table, periodically getting lost in his phone while SGA is on the sideline and shooting on the empty basket when action goes to the other end of the floor.
  • There’s been nearly a dozen times 45 minutes into practice where the teams have huddled around Cal or an assistant to talk strategy. Not sure I remember them ever doing that or at least this frequently. They’re trying to keep the opponents on their toes in these scrimmages and obviously a priority is being put on coaching.
  • I just noticed everything on/around UK’s practice court still has the old UK logo where the K isn’t changed. I wonder when they will change that.
  • After watching the latest season of Last Chance U this seemed relevant- when there’s a break in the action and some of the players split up, all the assistant coaches are active and chat with the players. When Calipari stops the action himself to teach/lecture you will not hear a peep from the assistants.
  • UK doing a drill where bigs have to guard guards in one-on-one penetration and guards also guard bigs. With UK usually switching every screen this is a smart drill. Last year’s group was NOT great at guarding screens.
  • SGA cutting it up with current players as some sit out during drills. Knox just walked over.

Overall Thoughts: I may be more confused about UK’s rotation after seeing this practice than before it started. So many players will be able to help this team but there are only a few that stood out from the rest.

Offensively I think this team has all the tools to be great. During the scrimmages they didn’t shoot a plethora of threes but when they took outside shots they were hitting at a solid clip. But this team’s bread and butter will be inside and offensive rebounds. It’s going to take a special frontcourt to keep these guys off the glass. Even the guards have a knack for flying towards the rim.

Defensively this team will smoother inferior opponents. Perimeter defense wasn’t spectacular outside of Ashton Hagans and as I mentioned earlier I’m somewhat concerned who else besides Keldon Johnson will be able to guard elite wings. Maybe Hagans? Defensively it’s going to be tough to score in the paint on this group. If I were playing against them tomorrow I’d tell my offense to be patient, work deep into the shot clock and spread the ball around. Cal spent a great deal of time working on defensive rotations when the ball is passed.

It appears to be another special group. Everyone looked to be in good spirits. No one talked back or pouted during practice. Everyone seemed to be eager to learn and willing to receive feedback. Even though there are some returning players it’s still a young group all things considered and all these guys were “the” guy on their previous teams. Every year we don’t make a big enough deal about how good Cal is at getting these guys to mesh.

Let’s get things started in the Bahamas.