UK Recruiting

Recruiting analyst says future Kentucky Wildcat has ‘top-2’ talent

Kahlil Whitney has emerged as one of the top perimeter players in the 2019 recruiting class.
Kahlil Whitney has emerged as one of the top perimeter players in the 2019 recruiting class. Nike

A couple of weeks ago, 247Sports updated the class of 2019 basketball rankings to reflect what its top recruiting analysts saw over the course of the summer.

There wasn’t much movement among the very best prospects in the 2019 class, but what little there was is a sign of good things to come at UK.

The two biggest movers among players in 247Sports’ new top 10 are also the only two recruits in that group that have already picked a college. They’re both committed to Kentucky.

Chicago wing Kahlil Whitney — a 6-foot-6 prospect now playing for Roselle Catholic (N.J.) — was the biggest riser in the top 10, jumping eight spots to the No. 6 overall position in the rankings after a summer that included stats of 21.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game on the Nike circuit, where he also shot 38 percent from three-point range.

“From a rankings standpoint, it’s an upside play,” 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “He has ridiculous physical gifts. The size, the body, the length, the athletic ability — he just hasn’t put it all together yet. But you see little flashes of the light flickering off and on. I think the area that he’s going to have to improve on is consistent effort. But all the tools are there for him to be great. He just has to dial it in and polish his game.”

Sustained effort is an area that Daniels and other analysts have previously said Whitney needs to improve, and the 17-year-old has acknowledged it himself, a good sign of self awareness for a prospect who can continue to climb the 2019 rankings if he keeps playing hard.

“He’s shown improvement. But there’s still a ways to go,” Daniels said. “I mean, look, with the type of physical tools and some of the things that he can do, if he consistently played hard, he’d be competing for a top-two spot in the country. He’s that naturally talented. And at some point you have to consistently bring it to reach that tier.

“But he’s a guy that — because of the tools that he has — that I would bet on.”

Tyrese Maxey, the player who has been committed to UK’s 2019 class the longest, moved from No. 13 to No. 10 in the 247Sports rankings. It was a modest rise for the 6-3 point guard from Texas, but any upward movement within five-star range is notable.

Maxey averaged 16.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game on the Nike circuit. He was named a first-team all-league selection and also earned defensive player of the year honors after accumulating 24 steals in 16 regular-season games, an impressive distinction for a prospect who is known more for his offensive ability.

“I like the way he can score,” Daniels said. “The kid can really score the basketball. You can play him on or off the basketball and he’s really effective. He competes on both ends of the floor. I just like his overall makeup, too. The thing that sticks out about Tyrese Maxey the most is his ability to put the ball in the basket. He has a knack for that.”

Daniels said he doesn’t necessarily consider Maxey a point guard, however, and 247Sports actually classifies him as a combo guard, ranking the UK commitment No. 2 nationally at that position after his friend Cole Anthony, who is also a UK target.

Maxey’s versatility in the backcourt should allow him to share time on the floor with other talented guards, and UK could have several back from this season’s team. The Cats are also still recruiting Anthony and other five-star guards in the 2019 class.

“He’s a primary ball handler, but he’s much more of a combo scorer than he is a true setup man,” Daniels said of Maxey. “I think, from that standpoint, his versatility will allow him to play with a number of guys effectively.”

UK’s other commitment for the 2019 class, Pendleton County wing Dontaie Allen, held steady at No. 84 in the 247Sports rankings after his breakout summer with local travel team M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs.

All three of those players will be eligible to officially sign with UK on Nov. 14.

Committed players in 247Sports’ Top 50 for 2019

6Kahlil WhitneyKentucky
10Tyrese MaxeyKentucky
17Isaiah MobleySouthern Cal
20Onyeka OkongwuSouthern Cal
22DJ CartonOhio State
23Tre MannFlorida
24De’Vion HarmonOklahoma
29Armando BacotNorth Carolina
30Jalen WilsonMichigan
32Anton WatsonGonzaga
38Isaac OkoroAuburn
40Alonzo GaffneyOhio State
43Justin MooreVillanova
47Max AgbonkpoloSouthern Cal

In-state basketball recruit Dontaie Allen made four three-pointers right off the bat and continued to excel in a game at the Louisville Jamfest on Saturday. UK is among the schools recruiting him.