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Kahlil Whitney ready to take flight at Kentucky

Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics

How did Kahlil Whitney get the nickname ‘The Dragon’? It all started with one really bad game a few summers ago, which resulted in a tongue lashing from his father.

“I had a bad game and then he cursed me out or whatever,” Whitney told KSR at Media Day. “He gave me some words of encouragement – I really can’t give you all those words of encouragement – but I went out the next game and had like 48 [points]. He was just in the crowd screaming, ‘He’s a dragon! He’s a dragon!’ and then the next thing I know, everybody in the crowd was just saying, ‘That’s the dragon!’ So I just went along with it and it’s been working well for me.”

Every father wants their son to do well, but there’s another reason Kahlil’s dad pushes him so hard. Kelly Whitney was a standout at Seton Hall from 2003-06, earning All-Big East honors. After going undrafted in 2006, Kelly stayed around South Orange, New Jersey while Kahlil’s mother, Chanel Tillmon, raised their son in Chicago. In 2010, Kelly and another former Seton Hall basketball player were charged with robbing eight college students at gunpoint. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison, but got out in under two.

From there, Kelly turned his life around, vowing to be a good father. Before Kahil’s sophomore year of high school, the family decided it was in his best interest to leave the crime-ridden streets of Chicago to live with his dad and stepmother in New Jersey, where he would attend Roselle Catholic, the alma mater of former Cat Isaiah Briscoe and former LSU star Naz Reid. Two summers later, Kahlil earned a scholarship offer from John Calipari and Kentucky, a dream several years in the making.

“Kentucky was always my dream school,” Whitney said. “Anthony Davis being from Chicago, me growing up in Chicago, I was looking up to him. When he committed, I was like, man, I just want to go to that school in blue.”

Whitney loved Kentucky Basketball so much that he wrote a letter to his classmates in eighth grade about wanting to be a Wildcat, which his former teacher surprised him with during his signing ceremony at his elementary school in Chicago in May. It’s a story you should be familiar with by now, but I couldn’t help but ask Whitney about in on Tuesday.

“That story has always touched me because I forgot I wrote that letter,” Whitney admitted. “I forgot. When I went to my grammar school and the teacher came up with it in her hand, I kind of remembered it but I forgot exactly what I said in the letter. She read it and it said I wanted to attend the University of Kentucky and I was just wearing the Kentucky jacket. It was just one of those moments like, wow. I’m really here. I really made it.”

Now officially a Wildcat, Whitney is already turning heads. His teammates rave about his freak athleticism, which was on full display during the Cats’ annual fun day at Picadome Elementary last month, when Whitney took flight, dunking over the school’s principal.

The principal — who is 5’5″ tall — was so nervous about the stunt that she asked to sit down instead of stand. Whitney assured her she had nothing to fear.

“I was like, ‘No, stand up. I’ll mess around and kick you in the head doing that.’ It was amazing though. I just tried to put on a show for the kids and keep a smile on their faces because they’re kids. Long day in school, they want to have some fun.”

Whitney has vowed to win the Dunk Contest at Big Blue Madness next Friday. Are fans in for a similar performance?

“Tallest person I jumped over was about 6’8”, so I cleared her easy. That was easy. I’ve got a couple of tricks under my sleeve for Big Blue.”


More from KSR’s preseason previews:

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.

6 Comments for Kahlil Whitney ready to take flight at Kentucky



  1. BigBertha
    11:50 pm October 4, 2019 Permalink

    It all started when he was gifted 3 dragon eggs…



  2. DelrayCat
    12:38 am October 5, 2019 Permalink

    That 8th grade paper makes him my new favorite player. So awesome.



    • DelrayCat
      12:41 am October 5, 2019 Permalink

      That is a true testimony to the power of putting your goals on paper…even better to enlist family, friends, and teachers to help hold you accountable to yourself.



  3. CrystalBall
    11:10 am October 5, 2019 Permalink

    After he adjusts to the college game he will be nearly unstoppable. May take a month or so.



  4. nocode96
    11:58 am October 5, 2019 Permalink

    That letter though. Even the cold, always angry “fans” around here have to feel good about that. Great story all around.



  5. Catcasey1
    12:50 pm October 5, 2019 Permalink

    I think by February this kid will be the one mostly talked about