Sacha Killeya-Jones’ transfer from Kentucky basketball will be something of a homecoming. He tweeted Tuesday that he planned to transfer to North Carolina State, which is about 28 miles from his hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C.
“Extremely excited to announce that I will be continuing my academic and athletic career at NC State University!” Killeya-Jones tweeted.
Fred Cannon, who coached Killeya-Jones on the AAU level, said the chance to play in his home area factored in the decision. Killeya-Jones had attended a boarding school throughout high school, and then played two seasons for Kentucky, Cannon said.
N.C. State Coach Kevin Keatts, a former Louisville assistant, also spoke to Killeya-Jones about having a prominent role in the Wolfpack’s style of play, Cannon said.
“His role there would allow him to see exactly where he’s at and what his true potential is,” Cannon said of Killeya-Jones’ thinking. “I think that’s what kind of sold him.”
Omer Yurtseven, a 7-footer, served as an example of how Killeya-Jones could imagine fitting in at N.C. State, Cannon said. Yurtseven was not anchored to the low post, as evidenced by 44 three-point shots (he made 22).
“Kind of the freedom to play on the perimeter and face up,” Cannon said. “Put the ball on the floor and make the right play whether he’s playing the ‘four’ or the ‘five.’ Kind of that freedom of offense is what he was hoping to find in a new situation.”
Killeya-Jones’ mother, Ley, said her son was especially interested in playing for an Atlantic Coast Conference school.
“He had a good selection of choices,” she said, “and (N.C. State) was the best fit.”
Killeya-Jones visited Wake Forest last weekend, Cannon said. He had also scheduled a visit to Pittsburgh.
“He had heard from quite a few ACC schools before cutting his list,” Cannon said. “The chance to play at home probably played a lot in the decision.”
N.C. State spokesman Craig Hammel said the school could not comment on Sacha Killeya-Jones’ transfer until the paperwork was completed.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari reacted on Twitter to Killeya-Jones' announcement, saying, "A great kid headed to play for a great coach, a great program and a great school. I wish @SKJ all the best."
Killeya-Jones tweeted his intention to “explore other opportunities” in early April.
“The past two years at Kentucky have been an amazing journey,” he tweeted. “And I want to thank all my coaches, teammates and fans who made it possible. After much deliberation with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to ask for my release and explore other opportunities.”
The player’s mother said Tuesday that her son had decided not to do interviews at the present time.
In a news release last month, Calipari said he wanted to continue coaching Killeya-Jones.
“I truly believe Sacha was just starting to find out who he is, and that his best days are ahead of him,” Calipari said. “I still believe that whether he’s here or somewhere else.”
Killeya-Jones came to Kentucky in 2016 as a McDonald’s All-American. UK’s media guide described him as a “double-double machine” as a high school player for Virginia Episcopal.
But he never blossomed at UK. As a freshman, he did not play after Jan. 21, and made only one field goal after Dec. 11.
As a sophomore, Killeya-Jones helped fill the void created by an injury that sidelined Jarred Vanderbilt. He made seven of 11 shots, scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in UK’s last two games in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Killeya-Jones’ sophomore season and Kentucky career ended on a quiet note. He did not score nor grab a rebound in 14 minutes against Kansas State in UK’s NCAA Tournament loss.
In his two UK seasons, he averaged 3.1 points and 2.7 rebounds.