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.”