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Kentucky Will Be Just Fine Without N’Faly Dante

(Photo: Instagram/@nfaly_dante12)

(Photo: Instagram/@nfaly_dante12)

On Tuesday, the news that several college basketball fan-bases have been waiting for, finally became official. And for the sake of the fan-base that most closely monitors this website, it didn’t work out in their favor.

That’s because on Tuesday, N’Faly Dante, a 6-11 center, who is originally from Mali, but played his last few years of high school ball in Kansas made his college decision. After a long, winding recruitment in which Dante began as a part of the 2020 class, he announced that he would be reclassifying to 2019, and that he would sign with Oregon. He chose the Ducks over Kentucky, LSU and a handful of other schools.

So with that, the final unknown puzzle piece of the 2019-2020 season has found his home. Oregon got a nice, last minute addition to 2019-2020 roster and the teams that missed out can look ahead to next season for certain, without the possibility of adding any new players.

Yet while so many prognosticators, so-called “experts” and fans have deemed this as a “devastating loss” for Kentucky, I just don’t see it that way. Yes, Dante is talented. Yes, in general, when you have a chance to add a talented piece, you want to do it.

But no, this is not a crushing loss for Kentucky going into next season.

Now before we got further, let’s get a few disclaimers out of the way. To be clear, no this article is not meant to tear down an 18-year­-old kid. Everyone reading this hopefully knows that isn’t my intention. My intention is solely to talk about him as a college basketball player, and the impact which I believe he will or won’t have next season.

I’m also not only writing this because Dante chose Oregon over Kentucky, and this is a Kentucky-based outlet. That’s not the reasoning at all.

As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite. If you follow my work at all – either on Twitter, writing or my podcast – you know that that I’ve said for months that Dante is a work in progress. That even if he did reclassify and play college basketball this season, his impact, in my opinion, would be minimal.

That has been my stance all spring and summer, and didn’t change with today’s decision. If you have any doubts, here is a tweet I sent out on the subject back in June. Two months ago.

Therefore this isn’t about tearing down a player, but instead, being realistic about the impact which he can have on college basketball this season.

And for starters, let’s begin with some simple facts on Dante. It’s important to remember that he isn’t just relatively new to the sport of basketball, but new to the United States and new to the English language, after growing up in Mali and speaking French for most of his childhood (By the way, if we can step away from basketball for a second, let’s give him some credit: This dude just made up a full year of high school over the summer, and got necessary test scores, and English isn’t even his first language!!! Shout out to him. What he did the last six months is so much harder than most people realize)

But from a basketball perspective? Again, there will be a learning curve.

Keep in mind that for all the time we spend hyping freshmen in college, the number of guys who actually have a major impact on the sport is minimal at best. For every Zion Williamson who bursts onto the scene, there is a Nassir Little who is crazy hyped and has trouble adjusting to the college game. Heck, just last season, how many freshmen really had a major impact in college basketball? Zion, RJ Barrett, Coby White, Tyler Herro, and maybe I’m missing a guy or two. But it isn’t many. Now, how about the guys who came in with a lot of hype and didn’t live up to it? Well, there was Little, Romeo Langford, Keldon Johnson, Kevin Porter at USC, Jahvon Quinerly, you could go on, and on.

It’s a major transition, even for kids who spent their whole lives playing basketball. It will be that much more for Dante because of his unique background. Not to mention, it’s not even like he has the benefit of playing a whole summer at the college level. He will show up in late August or early September and be expected to acclimate at the college level in time for November. That won’t be easy.

You know what else the reality is on Dante? While he has looked good against his peer group this summer (yes, for everyone in my timeline, I know he won Peach Jam MVP. I also won the Sixth Grade Geography Bee. Who cares?), when he actually played up in competition earlier this spring he struggled. Trust me, I was at the Nike Hoops Summit in April, where Dante went up against an American team featuring James Wiseman, Isaiah Stewart and Vernon Carey (who did only play for a small segment because of injury). And Dante looked like just another guy going against those guys.

Now I know Dante got better over the summer. But I also know that he will be going up against guys just as good as Wiseman and Stewart regularly in college basketball, and sometimes players two, three and four years older. You think those guys care about his credentials? Heck, you think his own teammates, who are fighting for playing time with him care about what he did at the high school level? OF course not.

(As a matter of fact, here is a quick prediction for you: Shakur Juiston, a rugged senior for Oregon will average more points and rebounds this season for the Ducks than Dante does. Not because Dante is a bad player. But because the adjustment to college is REALLY hard)

And finally, as it pertains to Kentucky, as I’ve argued for months, this may be a blessing in disguise. Dante is a true low post (and a good one at that) but one whose skillset doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of the pieces that John Calipari has accumulated, for a hyper-athletic, position-less team in 2019-2020. As I’ve said all along, heading into 2019-2020, I like the versatility of Kentucky’s roster. I like how their bigs can do a little bit of everything. I like that Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks can be part of small or big lineups. I like that they can play two, three or in some cases even four guards (if you count Johnny Juzang as a guard).

So in the end, I wish N’Faly Dante nothing but luck.

Maybe I’ll be wrong on his impact on college basketball, only time will tell.

But one thing I do know is that Kentucky will move on without him. And be just fine.

Article written by Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at [email protected] He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

28 Comments for Kentucky Will Be Just Fine Without N’Faly Dante

  1. mashman 93
    9:45 pm August 13, 2019 Permalink

    As usual Torres is right. GO CATS!!!

    • Bluehender
      7:58 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

      This ^^^

    • Looother
      8:51 pm August 14, 2019 Permalink

      Agree. Another excellent and informative post, Aaron…

  2. Big Meech
    9:47 pm August 13, 2019 Permalink

    Kind of glad he went to Oregon. Nothing against the kid but I hate to see these guys skip high school to come to college. I know we got Juzang, who reclassified, but when does it end. When is enough really enough. Let these kids ATLEAST enjoy high school. I know they are pursuing their dreams to make it in the nba but they are so young and wish they would take out the reclassification rule

    • mashburnfan1
      12:45 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

      99% of those that reclassify are kids that were held back a year at some point prior. Some of these so called parents hold kids back so they can play sports against younger kids and look better. Saw it all the time in AAU ball when I coached there, sad but true.

    • catsarerunnin
      7:30 pm August 14, 2019 Permalink

      Coached??? That’s rich lol!!!

  3. terwilliger
    10:14 pm August 13, 2019 Permalink

    I know some people are gonna think this is sour grapes… but when a kid chooses a school like Oregon (or Memphis, or Auburn, etc.) over Kentucky, I always feel like we dodged a bullet. If a kid wants to go to Duke or UNC over Kentucky, then it’s like “damn, we let one get away”. But when a kid picks Oregon, I have to question whether he was mentally strong enough to even come here. Then when you see he was also considering LSU, whose coach was caught as red handed as you possibly can be discussing paying specific recruits, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on with this kid.

  4. terwilliger
    10:19 pm August 13, 2019 Permalink

    Also, can someone (including Aaron Torres himself, if necessary) please explain to me who Aaron Torres is and why he thinks he knows anything about Kentucky basketball? He just wrote a freakin novel about why Kentucky (the greatest program in history) is going to be ok even though they missed out on a gangly 17 year old who has the coordination of a newborn moose. Ya think?

    • Bluehender
      7:56 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

      Mr Torres is an excellent writer, whom most of us appreciate his work. Your work speaks for itself. And it’s not flattering..

    • dave1964
      9:52 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

      May be a great writer, but you have to question anyone’s basketball IQ that thinks Kentucky will by fine with what we have starting center. Richards would have to improve 100% from last year for UK to make any kind of run in the tourney this year. He maybe a good kid but is horrible at basketball.

  5. JT55
    10:22 pm August 13, 2019 Permalink

    I wish him nothing but the best. I still wonder how they plan to score inside next season? Whitney is a great defender but doesn’t really have a low post game. Even is EJ takes the next step, (a big if) we know what we got in Richard’s at this point. Going to be challenging at times.

  6. Righteous1
    10:22 pm August 13, 2019 Permalink

    It did not matter whether Dante came to UK or not. This season will be the 5th in a row with no Final Four appearance but anyone can see Dante and the UK players on the biggest day of the year which is the NBA Draft 2020 in June.

    • 4everUKblue
      10:45 pm August 13, 2019 Permalink

      That you Kyle?

    • ClutchCargo
      8:35 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

      Cheering for the UK basketball team seems to be a little too stressful for the self-righteous one. That’s sad.

  7. NextMattJonesNoCap
    10:27 pm August 13, 2019 Permalink

    I’m just mad that he caused Tipton to end close friends

  8. KYjellyRoll
    10:32 pm August 13, 2019 Permalink

    Lol. Great article… comments? Not so much. Go Cats. Wegood

    • blueballs80
      12:01 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

      This topic has been beaten to death and then some. Let’s focus on football and the players we have.

    • UKiyaoyas
      9:36 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

      Yes. Focus on football. Preach.

  9. Smyrna_Cat
    12:06 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

    good blurb

  10. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    3:40 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

    Handlers don’t give a knat sized pile of sh!t about these kids, all they care about is who can get them money the quickest.

  11. Ridge Runner
    5:03 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

    Good article that places the situation in perspective.

  12. UKiyaoyas
    8:50 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

    Football szn

    • runningunnin.454
      9:08 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

      Actually neither yet, and they overlap. You can do both; I have faith in you.

    • UKiyaoyas
      9:29 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

      FOOTBALL! ?

  13. UKFanSC
    9:16 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

    We needed another awkward 7 foot project like we needed another hole in the head….. move on BBN.

  14. Brutal Hustler
    11:44 am August 14, 2019 Permalink

    Keldon didn’t NOT live up to his hype. I’d say he lived up exactly to his hype. He went first round and was a plus starter all year for us

  15. sivart88
    3:19 pm August 14, 2019 Permalink

    The sec may have been to tough on him in his eyes. He may if chose the ducks cause the easier conference (assuming it is) and e may of been intimidated with the bugs at uk having to fight for pt against them and not wanting to be in such a big spot light knowing how raw he still may be . Not saying that any of the reasons but sounds logical when someone chooses the ducks over the cats. Super pumped about the year ahead for the cats. May Christ keep watch over them.