This week started with a defection from DJ Jeffries, who became the first UK basketball recruit under John Calipari to back out of a commitment to the Wildcats.
A couple of days later, Pendleton County wing Dontaie Allen became the first in-state recruit in more than five years to land a scholarship offer from Calipari, and — almost instantly — Allen told the UK coach he was committing to the Cats.
UK basketball recruiting never stops, and it’s certainly not slowing down anytime soon.
Five-star wing Kahlil Whitney — a 6-foot-6 prospect from Chicago — is scheduled to arrive in Lexington on Friday to start his 48-hour official visit. The Cats might not necessarily land another commitment for their class of 2019 this weekend, but a pledge from Whitney is expected in the near future.
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“Everyone seems to think it’s Kentucky, and so do I,” Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans told the Herald-Leader. “I think schools like Louisville and Illinois have done a phenomenal job of recruiting him. … But I would say Kentucky’s the school to beat right now. Does he commit this weekend? I don’t know. It’s a possibility. I think Kahlil likes the big stage, and there’s not much of a bigger stage than Kentucky.”
Whitney is officially down to eight schools — UK, U of L, Illinois, Florida State, Georgetown, Miami, Oregon and Southern Methodist — but the Wildcats have emerged as major favorites ever since extending a scholarship offer a couple of weeks ago.
Calipari watched Whitney play this month and was clearly impressed by his abilities and upside as a perimeter prospect. He was one of the top scorers on the Nike circuit this spring, showed marked improvement in his outside shooting — 38 percent from three-point range with 41 makes in 20 games — and, the most important thing for his growth on the court, started playing with tenacity at all times.
Whitney went from a back-end Top 100 recruit to a five-star ranking in a matter of weeks.
“Kahlil was always a well-known prospect, but it was more about consistently playing hard and consistently producing,” Evans said. “There would be games where you didn’t realize he was even on the floor, which is a total 180 to what he is now. I mean, he’s a dog. He’s the definition of an alpha. You hear him, you see him, you can even feel him. And the production is just reflected because of that.”
The term “dog” is one that has become the ultimate compliment in recruiting circles. Recruits themselves use it to define a peer who they respect for their hard play. Scouts look for that trait to gauge competitiveness in the prospects they’re evaluating. And it’s a trait that Calipari often seeks in the players he recruits.
Whitney fits the description as well as just about anyone in the 2019 class.
“He has a very extrovert personality on the floor. It’s kind of like, ‘I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what stage we’re on. This is my ball. This is my game. This is my game to win.’ And that’s just the way he plays,” Evans said. “He’s a very dominant personality on the floor, and it’s fun to watch guys like that. From an entertainment perspective — just tossing off my scouting cap — he’s someone you want to watch. I’ll go watch that guy play any day of the week.”
This weekend’s trip to Lexington will be the first official visit of Whitney’s recruitment, and — though he has expressed an interest in taking more visits later this summer — this could be his final recruiting trip.
Whitney has made it clear he wants to have a college decision behind him by the start of his senior season of high school, and it’s no coincidence that UK will be the first program to get him on campus for an official visit.
His Crystal Ball page on the 247Sports website has tilted heavily in the Cats’ favor — with pro-UK predictions from national analysts Evan Daniels, Jerry Meyer and others — and a couple of days with Calipari might be enough to end his recruitment altogether.
Rivals.com has Whitney ranked as the No. 23 overall player in the 2019 class, and he could rise even higher.
“If someone is going to rise, he’s one of the guys who would be in the argument,” Evans said. “Just because of the way he’s continually produced and continues to play both ends of the floor. That’s the best part about Kahlil. He’s not a one-trick pony. He’s not just an offensive guy. He’s a rebounder, defender, finisher, shooter, scorer — definitely checks a lot of the boxes.”
UK’s top recruiting targets in the class of 2019