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John Calipari’s message to Kahlil Whitney following departure: “If you’re going to do this, you make it.”

On Friday afternoon, Kentucky freshman Kahlil Whitney announced his decision to leave the program to pursue other options, adding that his time in Lexington “has not gone as [he] had hoped.”

“Like so many others, playing at UK had always been a dream of mine,” Whitney wrote in a social media post. “I truly believed Coach Calipari and his program was the best fit to assist in preparing me for that next step in my basketball career. Unfortunately, my time at Kentucky has not gone as I had hoped, and I therefore need to make a difficult decision quickly to put myself back in the best position possible as I continue to develop and work towards my ultimate goal.”

Immediately after the decision, UK head coach John Calipari said in a press release that the news was “tough” for him and that he plans on supporting the former five-star forward “in whatever way [they] can.”

“First and foremost, Kahlil is a great kid,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “This is tough for me because Kahlil is a tremendous person who is going to do great things. I certainly don’t want to see him go because I wanted to continue to coach him, but I understand his decision and, as we always do here, will support him in whatever way we can. As I told Kahlil today, I hope he goes on and does his thing and makes us all proud. I know he will stay in touch with us and I know our fans will continue to support him as he takes this next step.”

After sleeping on the news for a night, Calipari dove beneath the surface on Whitney’s decision to leave the program on Saturday evening, adding that he had been staying up at nights trying to figure out a way to “get guys to play better.”

“I stay up nights trying to figure out how to get guys to play better,” Calipari said. “Not how my team plays better, how do I get guys to play better? What do we do defensively that can help certain people? Are there plays we can run to get somebody going?”

As far as Whitney’s decision specifically, Calipari said that they were both in tears when the 6-foot-7 forward approached him about his decision to leave the program.

At the end of the day, though, if the UK head coach was going to watch Whitney leave the program, he wanted to see him thrive, no matter the destination.

“Before he left, he had tears, I had tears,” Calipari said. “I hugged him and I just said, ‘You make it. Make it. If you’re going to do this, you make it.’”

Whether he transfers elsewhere or explores his professional options, Calipari hopes Whitney still reaches out and asks for help about his next steps.

“I get disappointed, as much in myself that I wasn’t able to help him break through,” he said. “But I told him, ‘I’m here. Call me if you need me. How can I help you? What do you need me to do?’ I was a little bit surprised, but it’s not my life. It’s their life. And they’re 18 and 19. … I want every kid to make it, but there are times where kids think it’s not here. Sometimes, it is what it is.”

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

29 Comments for John Calipari’s message to Kahlil Whitney following departure: “If you’re going to do this, you make it.”

  1. J. Did
    12:03 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    Initially, CAL asks all players to step up.
    From season’s beginning to end of Coach CAL Camp, Kahlil had opportunity galore. As a promising freshman, it was a gift.
    That was then.
    New season follows post-Coach CAL Camp.
    Again, coaches asked 3 Freshmen in particular to step up.
    Two did.
    One left.
    Kudos to Johnny Juzang and Keion Brooks Jr.
    Nothing wrong with non-conformity.
    You either get it and get fit, or pitch a fit, or you don’t fit.
    Simple as that.

  2. BigBlueFoo42777
    2:37 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    I really hope he transfers some where so he has a chance to work on fundamentals. As it stands no way he gets picked in the draft. If you can’t make it in the ncaa your probably not going to make it playing over seas and your damn sure not going to make it in the nba. College at least gives him something to fall back on.

  3. BluKudzu
    2:40 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    Cal’s goal is to get the best out of every player on the team.

    With Kahlil our goal was to win championships.

    Without Kahlil our goal is to win championships.

    Wish him the best, wherever he goes.

  4. The Big Lebowski
    5:11 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    I haven’t seen many players transfer out and be drafted.

    Only one I can think of is Kyle Wiltjer but he was miles ahead of Whitney in terms of development and ability to score. The likely scenario is that Whitney goes to Europe and stays there.

    I don’t get it. He doesn’t want to work? His talent is an illusion?

  5. RealCatsFan
    6:23 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    Last night on the post game show I was hearing that the decision may be spearheaded by his parents, and not so much Kahlil. If so,that is sad.

    • The Big Lebowski
      7:21 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

      Truly sad.

      You’ve got to research. This is a set back regardless of how one looks at it.

      Whitney stays at UK two years is a bad thing? No, it’s just a minor adjustment. Transferring leaves a mark. I don’t care who you are. It says that something is wrong. It’s either you or the program. Kentucky has put too many folks into the NBA after one, two or three years. That leaves Whitney as the problem. Whether that problem is his parents, his AAU coach or him. He is not as good as they think he is. If he stays at UK, he could develop into an NBA guy. Flipping around isn’t going to do it for him.

      Now, who is going to see him. How does he get invited to the combines or workouts, etc? Do his parents or AAU coaches have those connections.

      This is plain foolish no matter how you look at it. Cal all but says it.

    • IrishCat
      8:38 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

      No way he was getting minutes on next year’s team. He could come back twice as good and not see the court next year. I think the writing was in the wall and he just wanted out. Not saying I agree, but any future he had here was at least 3 years, which is probably what he needs.

  6. Matt10
    7:17 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    Stays up nights thinking about how to get him going and “let him play more minutes to get more experience” didn’t come to mind? Ooooooooo…k. I’ve been coaching over 20 years and there’s always been one all important rule no matter how good a coach anyone thinks they are: the game is the best teacher. Being a Hall of Fame coach, who constantly says it’s all about the kids, it’s amazing to me to let such a talented kid leave just because he’s not getting a chance to play. They’re not all AD and John Wall their freshmen years coach.

    • justaregulardude
      7:26 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

      You’ve been coaching over 20 years and you let all your freshman play equal minutes regardless? And I’m assuming they all get participation trophies at the end of season pizza party?

    • Old_Cat_Lady
      8:02 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

      That works fine in grade school rec league… this is big boy ball. I’ve been coaching not nearly long as you, but early in the season, all the kids see game time, because as you say, that’s the great evaluator. How do you do in real game situations? But after about the halfway point of the season, the best players are in the game. Why? Because you know by then who needs to be out there to give the team the best chance to win. Whitney had his chance in games, and didn’t answer the call. He needs more work. Best of luck to the young man.

      So you’re saying Cal”s supposed to cut minutes for other kids who are performing better to give Whitney time even though he’s had that chance and not performing? No way. Put the best team on the floor, that’s coaching 101. If several kids are more or less equal, then they share minutes. Those struggling ride the bench to watch and learn and work in practice to get better.

    • 4everUKBlue
      8:23 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

      Some people are just going to hate on Cal no matter what. Anyone who thinks Cal “let” Whitney leave is a fool and an idiot, I doubt seriously Cal had a say in the matter. Clearly his parents were not happy with his playing time even though he hadn’t earned more playing time. If any of you guys think you know more about basketball and coaching than Cal you should submit you resumes or STFU. Cal is not perfect and neither is anyone else, but he’s the best coach for this job. I can say without hesitation there is no one on this site that knows more about basketball, coaching, recruiting or how to handle the egos of these young men.

    • BluKudzu
      4:12 pm January 26, 2020 Permalink

      Just spitballing here coach Matt10,
      and please do not take this wrong, but have you had any NCAA championships? Any SEC championships, any SEC tournament championships, or have any team with bench strength and
      the starting caliber of magnitude that Cal has to work with?

      Just give me a state or region or district championship, using consisting mostly freshman or first year players to the program.

      Then I will back your comment 100%.

  7. damage_control
    8:14 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    Why is he transferring? I thought Cal played his highest rated NBA prospects regardless of their team contributions?!? Isn’t Whitney one of his top ranked recruits?!

  8. Bruce Dickinson
    8:41 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    I imagine this will be a decision that he will regret in a few years or less. Sounds like he was forced into this by parent, former coach etc. I just don’t understand why these players think they have to leave after a year. Look at Richards and Quickley. They stayed more than a year.

    • 4everUKBlue
      9:05 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

      I agree Bruce, so disappointing when parents or other outside influences don’t teach these young men to think for themselves and make their on decisions, this was a very bad move for Whitney and one Cal had no say in. If you saw the way the players acted when Cal entered the locker room after being ejected then you know the players love Cal.

    8:48 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    How did transferring work out for Quade?

  10. UKLugo
    9:01 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    Was this done while in Tx?? Smh.

  11. Matt10
    11:00 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

    4everukhallmonitor and other poor assumption Einsteins, my teams always overachieve and no stupid participation trophies and no equal minutes. But if a kid is lucky enough to make my team, by god I picked them and they are going to play! And I give them every chance, even when they struggle, because I’m a players first coach. I don’t throw them to the bench and move on. And, son of a beach, letting them play the game and believe in them, they always come around. Always.
    I wrote down every game Whitney played, his minutes and production. He was doing great til Utah Valley game then minutes slashed for FIVE blowout wins where he could have played more. After Utah game Cal slashed his minutes again and his confidence and production collapsed. Coach killed him and didn’t let him work through it.
    Kid played the total minutes, including exhibition games, of 7 games!
    Every chance to succeed my butt!

    • Realme
      11:25 am January 26, 2020 Permalink

      Just because you’re a coach on some level does not mean you have the slightest clue what it’s like to coach bball at the college level. You don’t know how much Whitney was working in practice, how often he was in the gym, or what kind of attitude he was showing up with. If he earned more minutes in any way, he would have had them. Cal wanted him to succeed, is way better at coaching than you, and was actually in position to know what was going on. But keep criticizing a HOF coach on the internet, we’re all SO impressed.

    • The Big Lebowski
      12:00 pm January 26, 2020 Permalink


    • 4everUKBlue
      1:18 pm January 26, 2020 Permalink

      LMAO, thanks Matt for confirming what I already knew. You think you should be coaching UK instead of Cal, well put in your resume hotdog or STFU!

    • 4everUKBlue
      1:20 pm January 26, 2020 Permalink

      So your elementary teams overachieve? You’re a hoot little buddy.

    • ClutchCargo
      2:04 pm January 26, 2020 Permalink

      LMAO at Matt calling out “poor assumption Einsteins” while making his own poor assumptions. I’m sure the irony flew right over your head, though.

    • BluKudzu
      11:26 pm January 26, 2020 Permalink

      Coach M,
      You really need to read what you have written prior to posting.

      Your passion for hating on Cal, should be channeled elsewhere. He has won a NC here, and a lot of games, and he is a HOF guy, helping many kids into the NBA.

      What is on your resume?

  12. The Big Lebowski
    12:01 pm January 26, 2020 Permalink

    I’m sure you’re a jeenyus, Matt!

    Way to fight it out on the internet.

    Proud of ya!


  13. Looother
    10:07 pm January 26, 2020 Permalink

    Hope Whitney gets exactly what he deserves…

  14. BluKudzu
    11:29 pm January 26, 2020 Permalink

    I want to go to a game Matt10 is coaching to see how it should be done.