Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
‘Year of the Dragon’ – Fresh Focus Sports Documentary on Kentucky Commit Kahlil Whitney
The full documentary ‘Year of the Dragon’:Kahlil Whitney signs with Kentucky in Chicago:
Adam Zagoria and Fresh Focus Sports are proud to debut the documentary, “Year of the Dragon,” which chronicles the 2018-19 high school basketball season of Kentucky commit Kahlil Whitney.Anthony Kuzviwanza of Fresh Focus Sports directed the film and Zagoria is the executive producer.
“Year of the Dragon” follows the 6-foot-7 Whitney as he and his Roselle (N.J.) Catholic teammates, including senior point guard Josh Pierre-Louis and junior big man Cliff Omoruyi, chase the program’s second straight New Jersey Tournament of Champions title under coach Dave Boff.
Ranked No. 111 in the Class of 2019 by ESPN.com, Whitney committed to Kentucky coach John Calipari last August, but opted not to sign his National Letter of Intent during the early period in November, sending shockwaves through Big Blue Nation. The deep-thinking and charismatic Whitney chose instead to wait until the spring, May 3rd to be exact, so he can sign his NLI at his old grammar school in Chicago and serve as a role model for the children in a city ravaged by gun violence.
“A lot of those kids are caught up in the streets and stuff like that, they feel it’s no hope,” Whitney said in December for this Forbes SportsMoney piece. “There’s a lot of stuff they see every day, they feel that’s all there is. Me, I got an opportunity and I grasped it, so I just want to be an inspiration for those kids.”
The film shows Whitney both on and off the court, as he and his teammates navigate a national schedule that included not one, but two, matchups with the loaded Ranney School featuring Villanova-bound guard Bryan Antoine and Florida-bound wing Scottie Lewis, including a winner-take-all showdown in the New Jersey Non-Public B state championship game.
Off the court, “Year of the Dragon” takes viewers behind the scenes with Kahlil’s family, including his father Kelly Whitney, a former Seton Hall basketball star who spent time in jail after committing armed robbery in New Jersey. During that period, Kahlil lived with his mother, Chanel Tillmon, in Chicago, but later chose to live with his father in New Jersey after he was released. Having paid for and learned from his mistakes, Kelly’s life is now on the right track and he serves as a strong and active role model for Kahlil.
Whitney also endures losses both on the court and off, including the death of his great grand-mother, Annie Tillmon, in February.
“I’m a family-oriented guy, so I try to be around my family as much as possible because times like that you don’t get back,” he said for a story then. “Spending time with your family, the great memories you have with them, so I kind of took it hard. I had to be there for my mom and my grandmother and grandfather. It was sad. She’s in a better place right now, and she’s looking down on me.”
On the court, Whitney competed in the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic, where he bonded with future Kentucky teammates Keion Brooks and Tyrese Maxey.
“It’s going to be amazing, me and Keion Brooks are going to be going at it in practice every day,” Whitney said. “We’re going to be pushing each other so that’s going to be good. Tyrese is just a good teammate to play with.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.