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Calipari: For Kentucky to reach its potential, Kahlil Whitney must step up

We’re going to learn a lot about this Kentucky team in the next few weeks, but John Calipari knows one thing for certain: they will not reach their potential unless Kahlil Whitney takes a major step forward. Calipari spent most of today’s press conference talking about the freshman, who he says is the key to Kentucky’s success.

I’ve told the team, we’ve got a ceiling unless he plays for us. We don’t have anybody like him. He’s the one. But if other guys are playing better than him, I’ve got a responsibility to everybody and what he hasn’t done yet is figure it out. And he will. He’s a great kid. He’s trying. We did some stuff today, they’ve got to talk more. You’ve got everybody rooting for him, he’s just got to go play.”

Calipari is encouraging Whitney to follow Tyrese Maxey’s example in Georgia Tech game and focus only on defense instead of offense.

“I even told him, don’t be afraid to be Tyrese [Maxey]. Go guard their best player, shut him out and go 0-9. Don’t be afraid to be Tyrese. And then they say you’re Player of the Game. You were 0-9 but you’re Player of the Game. Don’t be afraid to be that. And then the other stuff will happen.”

Calipari has been harping on his guys to “fight and finish” the past few weeks, and based off his comments today and on the coach’s show last night, that message is now directed at Whitney.

“Kahlil’s got to play at a level he’s capable of playing for us to be what we need to be and everybody knows it, everybody’s watching it. And it may take time. So what if it takes him a month? Who cares? They’re only going to watch him at the end of the year and at the end of the year is when this stuff really counts. It’s taking him more time than I thought it would.”

Cal used Keion Brooks as an example of a player that’s now having success on the court because the staff made him play against Nick Richards in practice. Cal says he’s doing the same thing with EJ Montgomery and Tyrese Maxey, whom he’s pitting against Ashton Hagans, but Whitney’s issues are the ones keeping him up at night.

“So you’re trying to get all these guys and in the interim, you’re trying to get Kahlil going. You stay up at nights, how do I help him break through? Is there anything I can do? Some of it is just experience. Some of it is reps but not at the expense of winning and losing. You know what I’m saying? He needs reps, he needs to go through this but we also gotta win games so it’s a push and a pull.”

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

9 Comments for Calipari: For Kentucky to reach its potential, Kahlil Whitney must step up



  1. yoshukai
    1:53 pm December 17, 2019 Permalink

    So far the kid looks like a Diallio or Pothress , super athlete but limited basketball skills and IQ . Cal loves those guys .



    • DelrayCat
      2:00 pm December 17, 2019 Permalink

      What an absolutely dickish thing to say. You don’t know ANYTHING about this kid’s intelligence level. To say he has low IQ in your mind only points to your OWN lack of intelligence.



    • BlueBanker18
      10:20 am December 18, 2019 Permalink

      Pretty sure he meant basketball IQ, relax. I feel the same way though, the dude’s got an incredibly high ceiling. Sucks that we probably won’t reap the benefits since ‘great athletes’ take years to develop into great basketball players. We’ll see a couple cool dunks, a few high scoring games, but he’ll struggle with consistency like Diallo.



  2. DelrayCat
    2:06 pm December 17, 2019 Permalink

    Outsized expectations is a tough thing to manage for an 18 year old. How many times have we seen it now? A guy comes in with stellar rankings and high school pedigree, but he struggles to live up to it. Like so many before him, it is evident Whitney just needs time to find his game and his role within this team. Okay, so he’s not a scorer. But he needs to bring energy and intensity to every moment on the floor and he will develop a role. He can play….He just needs confidence.



  3. CJKAssassin123
    2:18 pm December 17, 2019 Permalink

    “May I have your attention please? May I have your attention please? Will the real Khali Whitney please stand up? I repeat, will the real Khali Whitney please stand up”



  4. Looother
    6:50 pm December 17, 2019 Permalink

    Don’t think anybody’s got “Outsized expectations” for Whitney. Just want him to play to his potential. He’s clearly not been doing that…



  5. Melvit
    7:36 pm December 17, 2019 Permalink

    I hope he does, I really like him for some reason.



  6. dcforuk
    6:14 am December 18, 2019 Permalink

    I love Cal’s transparency with that stuff. These freshmen are drinking from a firehose. Reps, practice, experience in a rapidly moving stream help to convert the firehose to a cool drink of water! I think Khalil will figure it out as long as he listens to the right people and does not read negative fan reactions………but, more importantly does not BELIEVE negative fans’ reactions/words.



  7. Aar
    9:20 am December 18, 2019 Permalink

    Preseason, I said that Richards is the key to this team and stand by that. As long as he is delivering 30+ minutes and a near double double or better every game, the Cats are on a good foundation.

    Obviously, Cal knows his stuff and I agree with him about Whitney. With his athleticism, he has the ability to take this team to the next level. While I like the three guard lineup, it could be exposed against a team with size on the wing and Whitney could solve that. The next three games will provide that test.

    Sestina’s return could free up Brooks for wing minutes but that does not diminish this team’s ceiling with Whitney locking down the wing. To Cal’s point, defense will earn minutes for Whitney. The offense will come in time.