This morning, Immanuel Quickley announced he is entering the NBA Draft and foregoing his final two years of eligibility at Kentucky. As we prepare to say goodbye to one of our favorite Wildcats, let’s look back at some of his top moments in blue and white.
A fan favorite from the start
Quickley committed to Kentucky in September 2017, but before making the announcement, led the crowd at John Carroll School in singing “Happy Birthday” to his mother, Nitrease.
In February 2018, Drew Franklin traveled to Maryland to meet Quickley. In addition to seeing Quickley play, Drew got to meet his amazing family and learn more about him as a person. As we all know now, there’s way more to Quickley than just basketball. In addition to being a devout follower of Christ, he plays several musical instruments, including the drums. The footage of him playing at his church should be familiar by now.
Quickley has always been comfortable on stage. At his first Big Blue Madness, he showed no fear, busting out the best dance moves of the night.
Immanuel Quickley #BBM18 swag
Posted by Kentucky Basketball on Friday, October 12, 2018
Freshman to Sophomore Jump
Quickley played in all 37 games his freshman year, but mostly as a backup. He averaged 5.2 points in 18.5 minutes per game and scored in double figures in five games. He made 30 of 87 three attempts, becoming one of Kentucky’s most reliable deep threats by season’s end. After the season was over, he put rumors that he was going to transfer to rest, announcing he was returning to Kentucky for a sophomore season. From there, he pretty much lived in the gym all summer, hard work that did not go unnoticed. At Media Day, John Calipari told reporters that Quickley was a totally different player than he was the previous season
“Immanuel is not even the same player. I mean, I had someone come in and watch us practice and say, he’s not even the same guy. The reason is he’s in a different frame of mind.”
Quickley finished his sophomore season averaging 16.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.9 assists. In SEC play, those averages improved to 18.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. When you look at the numbers, in the Calipari Era, he trailed only Tyler Ulis in freshman-to-sophomore jumps in production.
Quickley speaks openly about his faith and credited his transformation over the summer not just to extra time in the gym, but also to extra time with his Bible.
“As a freshman, really I think it’s just mentally,” Quickley told KSR in December. “I feel like I was pretty good from my freshman year to my sophomore year; there wasn’t that much difference physically, but mentally, I started reading my Bible more. Waking up, reading my Bible, [reading it again] before I go to sleep. Just mentally trying to get to a place where nothing could affect me. When I miss a shot I come down and shoot the same shot the next play. Just that mental aspect was real big for me this year.”
A breakout performance vs. Louisville
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that Quickley didn’t start a third of Kentucky’s games this past season. Against Louisville, he came off the bench and scored a then-career-high 18 points, 14 in the second half and overtime. He was a perfect eight-for-eight from the free-throw line, two of those makes coming with just 17 seconds left in OT to help seal Kentucky’s win.
Big buckets at key moments
When conference play began, Quickley became the guy Kentucky could rely on for a bucket. At Georgia, he hit a three to give Kentucky its first lead of the second half, another one to put the Cats up one with eight minutes left, and a third with four minutes left to push the lead to five and put away the Bulldogs for good.
One game later, Quickley hit five of six threes to help hold off Alabama, including a clutch bucket with 4:33 left to stem the Crimson Tide’s rally, and another with a minute left to make it 74-67. He followed it up with two free throws to put a bow on the win.
Who could forget his halfcourt heave to give Kentucky the lead going into halftime at Texas Tech?
Big shots turn into even bigger performances
In February, Quickley took his game to an even higher level, saving Kentucky from losses on more than one occasion. Key threes and free throws helped Kentucky rally from a nine-point halftime deficit at Vanderbilt. At LSU, he scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the second half despite being shaken up twice and playing through hip pain. One game later vs. Florida, Quickley scored 22 points in the second half, including three straight threes, to lead Kentucky’s rally and bring John Wall to his feet:
After the game, the two sat down for an interview for KyWildcatsTV, a dream come true for a player who idolized Wall growing up.
A 30-point performance at Texas A&M
Three days later, Quickley posted another career high, scoring 30 points in Kentucky’s 69-60 win in College Station. He made a career-best eight threes and became the first UK player with 30 or more points since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 on Jan. 30, 2018, vs. Vanderbilt.
Automatic at the free-throw line
Quickley made 92.3% of his attempts at the free-throw line this past season, which ranks second in school history, just behind Tyler Herro’s school record set in 2018-19 of 93.5%. He ranked first in the SEC and third in the nation in free-throw percentage and had four different stretches of 17 or more consecutive makes, an incredible stat. His routine of closing his eyes and breathing before each free-throw attempt became Kyle Macy touching his socks for a new generation.
You can’t talk about Quickley without mentioning his family, most of which were in the stands at Rupp Arena for each game. If you’ve watched a game, even just on television, you’ve heard them.
Quickley’s little sister Shiloah is turning into quite the hooper herself. Could we see her playing for Matthew Mitchell one day?
SEC Player of the Year
Quickley’s play accelerated at such a rate in the second half of the season that UK added him to Nick Richards’ awards campaign to make it “Pick Nick and Quick” for SEC Player of the Year. On March 10, Quickley brought the award home after not being picked for any preseason all-conference teams or player-of-the-year watch lists. If you go by just the coaches’ vote, he is only the fourth player in the John Calipari Era to be named SEC Player of the Year and ninth in program history (Anthony Davis, John Wall, and Tyler Ulis are the other three; Malik Monk was voted SEC POY by the AP, but not by the league’s coaches).
For a player who didn’t even consider testing the NBA Draft waters last year and wasn’t listed in mock drafts until January, that’s a pretty nice launching pad for a lifelong dream.