By LARRY VAUGHT
Could Kentucky commit Kahlil Whitney be the next Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?
Obviously that’s a huge expectation to put on a player before he even starts his high school senior season. Yet former Kentucky basketball player Twany Beckham already sees the possibility.
Beckham was one of the coaches at the Nike Hoops Academy in Los Angeles this summer and Whitney was one of the players he coached/mentored.
“His athleticism is off the charts. His dunks blew everybody away,” Beckham said about the 6-6 Whitney. “He has a nice shot, good form. I told him he reminded me of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I guarded Michael an entire year at Kentucky (during UK’s 2012 national championship season).
“Michael was an absolute beast. What separated him from other players was his heart and grit. I told Kahlil that. As far as the intangibles and looks, Kahlil has it. He has the same long arms, gets after it on defense, has the high motor. Everything Michael had, he has. What I don’t know his how his toughness and grit will translate to college because that was a big part of what made Michael special.”
Beckham didn’t see Kidd-Gilchrist play in high school. He likely won’t get to see Whitney play this season in New Jersey.
“But I don’t have to see him to know Kahlil is very skilled for his size. He can put the ball on the floor. He can make shots,” Beckham said. “Everything that you want in a wing player, he has. Now we’ll just have to wait to see how it all translates to the college game when he gets to Kentucky.”
Beckham said the LA academy had numerous top 25 players nationally attending. It was four days of instruction and games. Beckham became a fan of the Kentucky commit immediately.
“I feel in love with him right away. I actually didn’t know who he was, but just his swag, his confidence, I liked it. He was leading every drill the first day,” Beckham said.
But what really got Beckham’s attention is when Whitney, a high school junior who is already projected as the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, dunked over top of former NBA star Rasheed Wallace.
“I thought, ‘Who is this kid?’ Then somebody told me he was going to Kentucky,” Beckham said. “That’s when I went up to him and told him I was on the 2012 championship team. He was a very confident player. He was talking all the time, pumping others up. He wanted to be first in every drill. He brought energy to every drill and was talking to guys about finishing drills the right way.
“I had some good teammates in college, but his personality and swagger will be right up there with some of them. He’s talkative and loud, but he can play. I was trying to tell him some small things he could work on like talking on the court. Cal always wanted us to talk all through practice. A guy like Kahlil will be one of the leaders doing that.”
Whitney’s demeanor also stood out to Beckham — and apparently stood out to Calipari, too., during his recruitment. Beckham said Whitney – a top 10 player in the 2019 recruiting class – never once “debated or questioned” anything he was told.
“He always said, ‘Yes sir, I got you,’” Beckham said. “He never came back at you. That’s a good sign right there. That will be a big thing playing for Cal.”
During Whitney’s camp exit meeting, Beckham told him he would have to work harder than he ever has at Kentucky. Whitney told Beckham Calipari told him the same thing.
“He’s got to get his shot a little more consistent, has to get more grit about him, be a little tougher on both ends of the court,” Beckham said. “Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a toughness you could not teach. He was coming off an injury at the camp in LA and I didn’t get to see him fully compete but when he did compete, he brought it.
“That one dunk (over Wallace) blew the whole gym away. He can dunk, finish plays multiple ways. He could be a really good defensive player with his length. I am pretty sure Cal will tell him he can be a defensive stopper and I agree with that. He’s going to be something.”