This afternoon, 2020 five-star center N’Faly Dante may have forced Kentucky’s hand to go small-ball this coming season by committing to the Oregon Ducks over the Wildcats.
With only three scholarship frontcourt players on the roster in EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards, and Nate Sestina, along with Kentucky head coach John Calipari experimenting with Keldon Johnson at the four during the NCAA Tournament last season, it only make sense that freshmen wings Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks Jr. are seen as prime candidates to do the same this season.
Oddly enough, this morning, Corey Evans of Rivals.com broke down some of the top performers this past weekend at the Nike Skills Academy and singled out Whitney for the versatility he showed off at the event.
That versatility included spending a solid bit of time at the power forward spot against some of the top players in the nation.
After watching him in action, Evans went as far as to say that Whitney may actually be Kentucky’s best option at the four in 2019-20.
“The Wildcats struck out too many times to recall last year whenever it came to chasing the best post prospects nationally,” he said. “This may have forced the hand of John Calipari going the small ball route, and placing the five best bodies on the court has become the dominant theme in Lexington. Whitney didn’t shoot it great in California, but he was all over the place on the defensive end and was at his best as downhill attacker off of the perimeter. Whitney at the four might not be what he wants to hear right now, but it could also be the game-changing type of move that raises the Wildcats’ ceiling next season.”
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony had similar praise for Whitney, saying the 6-foot-7 forward has “ample strength and length” to thrive at power forward.
“It will be intriguing to see how Whitney is utilized at Kentucky,” Givony wrote. “He has ample strength and length for a power forward, and he likely would benefit from the added spacing of being guarded by slower defenders and surrounded by additional shooting. John Calipari has traditionally used players of Whitney’s mold on the wing, however. That could make for some ugly moments offensively but likely will prove very difficult to score against on the other end of the floor.”
Givony added that Whitney was one of the most impressive players on the very first night of camp,
“Whitney was arguably the most impressive player in the first evening of scrimmages, and though his performance tapered off afterward, he still had an eye-opening weekend,” he said. “Part of that is due to his 207-pound physique, which boasts measurements similar to those of Andre Roberson and Thaddeus Young. Whitney’s athleticism stood out consistently. He put his ahead above the rim on numerous occasions, both finishing lobs and creating shots himself. At this stage, his physical tools are best utilized on the defensive end. He has the strength to put a body on almost any big man, but the length and mobility to slide with perimeter players using rangy strides affords him the type of multipositional versatility NBA teams covet.”
While his defensive skills and instincts are already there, Givony did admit that Whitney remains a work in progress on the offensive end.
“Offensively, Whitney likely will be somewhat of a mixed bag as a freshman,” he said. “His ballhandling skills aren’t very functional in the half-court — he can’t always generate good looks operating out of pick-and-roll or isolation situations — and he had a difficult time bringing the ball up against pressure. He did show flashes of getting low with his dribble and changing speeds powerfully, using his strong frame to get to his spots in the midrange or bouncing off opponents en route to the rim. His jumper is a work in progress. He is capable of throwing in pull-ups inside the arc, but he has a somewhat slow and mechanical release that makes him fairly inconsistent from 3-point range. Nevertheless, his solid mechanics and a bit of touch leave room for optimism.”
While no highlight videos have emerged from Whitney’s time at the Nike Skills Academy, we did get one clip of the Kentucky freshman unleashing his inner dragon.
— Hoop Vibez (@HoopVibes) August 12, 2019
We also got this image of Whitney, who certainly looks the part of a small ball four.