Many Kentucky fans feel John Calipari has a dilemma on his hands for the class of 2019.
Kahlil Whitney is considered a consensus top-25 five-star small forward, and his stock is only going up. After Calipari watched him play three separate times last week, the 6-foot-6, 190-pound prospect out of Roselle, New Jersey picked up a scholarship offer from Kentucky. He also holds offers from Kansas, Florida, Louisville, LSU, Oregon, Georgetown, Syracuse, and Connecticut, among others.
According to ESPN’s Paul Biancardi, who spoke to Whitney’s father last week, Kentucky’s latest recruit will be in Lexington on Friday, August 3 and will stay through Sunday, August 5.
So for those keeping track at home, Coach Cal watched him play three times, extended an offer, and set up a visit all in the span of a week and a half. Sometimes the Kentucky head coach takes the slow approach when recruiting elite prospects. In others, he goes in for the kill, hoping to snag a commitment sooner rather than later. The latter seems like the likely situation here.
Several recruiting analysts are predicting Whitney’s recruitment could be coming to a close soon, with Kentucky sitting pretty in the driver’s seat.
And he didn’t do much to shut down those rumors, either, tweeting “The end is near!!” on Tuesday.
The end is near!!
— #MyMommaTheReason?? (@KahlilWhitney) July 24, 2018
Then comes prized in-state recruit Dontaie Allen.
Falmouth, KY’s Dontaie Allen is one of the fastest-rising prospects in all of college basketball, making it obvious why countless major schools in the nation are flocking to join his recruitment. The 6-foot-7 small forward averaged 31.8 points (nearly 40-percent from three) and 11.4 rebounds per contest at Pendleton County last season, and he only got better this summer. Florida, Oklahoma, Louisville, West Virginia, Auburn, and Virginia Tech, among others, have extended scholarship offers. He earned nine offers over the last three weeks alone.
Over the course of the AAU circuit this summer, he has gone from unranked to No. 46 in the Rivals’ player rankings. 247 Sports lists him as the No. 83 prospect in the nation and the second-best player in Kentucky behind only Trinity’s David Johnson. Former UK target Kyky Tandy is sitting behind Johnson and Allen at No. 3.
Kentucky has already moved on from Tandy, but it seems like there is significant mutual interest between the Cats and Allen. Though the Wildcat head coach wasn’t there, he already visited the school back in June. Coach Cal then watched Allen play a few weeks ago at the Under Armour Challenge and followed it up with a phone call to set up another visit to Lexington. Cal showed once again he’s serious by heading to Louisville on Friday night to watch him play in the Louisville Jam Fest, the final recruiting event of the July evaluation period. When Allen visits Lexington again this week, a scholarship offer is expected to follow.
If you ask Tandy, it’s only a matter of time before he lands in Lexington for good.
My boy is U.K. Bound !
— Dekeyvan Tandy (@TandyDekeyvan) July 28, 2018
If Allen continues to dominate, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Pendleton County star shoot up to the top-25 of the recruiting rankings by the end of his senior year. UK hasn’t locked up an in-state prospect since 2013, and the Kentucky Mr. Basketball candidate is certainly a player worthy and capable of breaking that streak.
That being said, if Calipari secures a commitment from Whitney in the next week or so, would it scare off Allen? No, not likely. And it shouldn’t.
As we saw with Tandy and countless other recruits over the years, some players want to be the center of attention and get a certain number of shots per game. And that’s okay. We saw how ball-dominant players like Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons can still raise their draft stock on lesser college teams, sacrificing winning in the process.
Allen isn’t that guy. His focus is learning how to be an elite basketball player at the next level, and he knows he can do that at Kentucky
“They sold me on coming there and working hard,” Allen told the Herald-Leader following his unofficial visit to Lexington back in June. “They said they tell everyone that wants to go to school there that they’re going to work and I like how serious basketball is to them. It’s strictly basketball and I could use their system to get great things out of it.”
In another Herald-Leader article, Ben Roberts interviewed basketball analyst Evan Daniels about his thoughts on the Pendleton County star.
“It starts with his good size and length for a perimeter player,” Daniels told Roberts. “And then it’s his shooting ability — I think that’s probably what stuck out to me the most. He has an easy, clean stroke, and he made a bunch of them this weekend. I know at UA he was 15-of-37 from three. I think it’s pretty clear he’s a confident shot-maker from distance. Probably a little bit better ball handler than I gave him credit for, although he’s still a little bit of a straight-line driver. But he can make one- and two-dribble pull-ups. I saw him go to the post and score. Plus, I think he’s got a very good feel for the game, especially as a scorer. I was very impressed.”
It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation. Kentucky has space for both.
Keldon Johnson will almost certainly be a one-and-done, joined by frontcourt players PJ Washington, Reid Travis, and EJ Montgomery. Ashton Hagans will likely join them, as well.
DJ Jeffries, another four-star small forward in the class of 2019, is already committed to Kentucky, but he plays more of a bully style of basketball as a small-ball four. Whitney is the athletic guard-type that thrives in transition with a solid shooting touch from outside. Very similar build to Hamidou Diallo (less athleticism, better shooter). Allen has more of an old-man game: great length, excellent shot, slow-paced, and methodical.
The Cats will likely see some key returners next season and more additions to the recruiting class (one point guard and a few big men, most likely), but there is space for all three. All three have different styles of play and bring something different to the table. Their styles mesh well together.
Check out Whitney’s junior-year highlights:
Here’s Allen’s performance on Friday with Calipari in attendance, where the four-star small forward knocked down his first four attempts from three:
There’s a very good chance both Whitney and Allen end up at Kentucky next fall, leaving just a few key pieces of what could be a monster recruiting class in 2019.
Bring ’em on home, Calipari.