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5-Star Freshman Leaves Kentucky During SEC Play
AP Photo/Gregory Payan

The Kentucky Wildcats are absolutely loaded with talent. As long as head coach John Calipari is in Lexington, the roster will always be that way. There are times when so much star power can be an issue, though, and it proved to be true once again.

On Friday, January 24, Kentucky freshman small forward Kahlil Whitney announced he is leaving Big Blue Nation in the middle of the regular season and during SEC play. His NCAA college basketball career at UK was far from what anyone expected it to be, especially him.

Now, the five-star recruit is officially gone and won’t play at Rupp Arena anymore.

Khalil Whitney Leaves Kentucky

Originally from Chicago, Whitney committed to Kentucky back in August 2018. He was the No. 11 overall prospect coming out of Roselle Catholic High School in New Jersey, and he joined fellow five-star signees Tyrese Maxey and Keion Brooks in the Wildcats’ star-studded 2019 basketball recruiting class.

After logging over 20 minutes in each of UK’s first four games, the 6-foot-6 Whitney slowly saw his playing time go away. He logged double-digit minutes just twice since SEC play began. Clearly, something wasn’t right, and he made the choice to leave Kentucky basketball for good.

Whitney averaged 3.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 18 games.

“At this time, after several conversations with my family and coaching staff, I regret to announce that I will be leaving the University of Kentucky.

“Like so many others, playing at UK had always been a dream of mine. 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.

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“I’ve realized since High School that the business of basketball waits for no one, and sometimes tough choices need to be made in order to progress. I’ve worked extremely hard over the past several years to become an elite player, and now, as unconventional as it may seem, I must continue to do what I know is best for my future.

“I can’t express enough the respect I have for Coach Calipari. I’ve learned a lot from him in my short time at UK and will take much of his Wilson with me as I continue on my journey.

“I am forever thankful for my time at Kentucky and for all the people I’ve met along the way. I thank the coaches, my teammates, tutors, training staff, advisers and professors for working with and believing in me.

“I wish Big Blue Nation all the best! I’ve heard your voices and positive messages, and I thank you for your continued love and support. I will always be cheering for UK’s success and for all of my brothers on the court.

“I will be in the gym… I will be in film room… I will continue to do everything necessary to prepare myself for that I know I’m capable of at the next level.

“Thank you again to everyone, for everything! All the best always — Khalil Whitney”

Whitney’s departure is a tough one, but both Kentucky and the former McDonald’s All-American will certainly bounce back from the loss. The Wildcats will fill the gap with more elite talent and athleticism, but it will be interesting to see what Whitney decides.

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Will he transfer to another school next year? Could he just take a few months off and then declare for the NBA Draft, which is the ultimate goal he wrote about?

Only time will tell, but it’s definitely not a common thing to see a five-star recruit walk away during the middle of the season, even at Kentucky.

MORE: Anthony Davis’ Kentucky Career Might Never Be Duplicated

With over 10 years of sports writing experience, Brett has covered some of the top local, regional, and national sporting events in the Heartland for both print and digital platforms. He is a graduate of Kansas State University and resides in Austin, Texas.
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