Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks building a relationship heading into Kentucky | Zagsblog
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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.
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Monday / June 24.
  • Kahlil Whitney, Keion Brooks building a relationship heading into Kentucky

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    By RICH FLANAGAN

    SOUDERTON, Pa. – Over the last year, Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks have grown accustomed to playing with and against one another in various All-Star games.

    On Friday night, in their last high school event before heading off to Kentucky, they were opponents at the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic at Souderton Area High School.

    “[Kahlil] was part of the reason I decided to go to Kentucky,” the 6-foot-7 Brooks said of Whitney, who was named MVP of the Iverson Classic after scoring 31 points despite his Team Loyalty losing, 159-155 to Brooks (24 points) and Team Honor. “Going against him every day, [in practice] I know I have no choice but to get better. He and I have been getting closer with these events and we’re really enjoying it.”

    The 6-6 Whitney, who is featured in the new Fresh Focus Sports documentary “Year of the Dragon,” is looking forward to being able to play against Brooks on a regular basis, too.

    “It’s great knowing that we’re going to be matched up every day in practice getting each other better,” Whitney said. “We’re getting very close and we’ve been bonding. It’s going to be great next year.”

    Brooks played alongside a Team Honor squad which featured Aidan Igiehon (Louisville), Boogie Ellis (Duke) and Isaiah Wong (Miami (Fl.), who won game MVP after having 38 points.

    Whitney finished a lob off the backboard from Florida commit Tre Mann early in the second quarter. His team had Cassius Stanley (Duke), Jahmius Ramsey (Texas Tech) and Eric Dixon (Villanova), to name a few.

    It was a fitting ending for the pair as they prepare to join John Calipari’s team in the first week of June. The Iverson Classic was a chance for them to conclude successful senior campaigns.

    Brooks, a versatile forward, scored 19 points for No. 1 ranked La Lumiere School (Ind.) in the first round of the GEICO High School Nationals against Bishop Gorman (Nev.), then poured in 20 versus newly committed Cole Anthony (North Carolina) and Oak Hill Academy (Va.) in the semifinals. Brooks and La Lumiere were upended by IMG Academy (Fla.) in the title game.

    Whitney, a combo guard who was selected to both the McDonald’s and Jordan Games, averaged. 21 points and 7 rebounds per game in leading Roselle Catholic (N.J.) to the North Jersey Non-Public B title game along with Josh Pierre-Louis (Temple). Going against a Ranney School team featuring Villanova commit Bryan Antoine and Florida commit Scottie Lewis, Whitney poured in 26 points in his final game at Roselle Catholic. He was able to play with Pierre-Louis (14 points) on Friday night one last time.

    While Brooks and Whitney accomplished a lot at the high school level, they’re excited to see where Calipari can elevate their game to.

    Whitney noted that it was an easy decision to choose the Wildcats after the looking at the head coach’s track record, which included four trips to the Final Four since coming over to Kentucky.

    “Looking at his resumé and all of the NBA players he’s had is amazing,” Whitney said. “It was pretty much a no-brainer for me going to play for one of the greatest coaches of all-time. He coaches players and gets them better.”

    After Brooks heard how Calipari’s goals for freshmen players were nearly identical to his, it increased his drive to want to become part of the Wildcats.

    “When I sat down and thought about that, the way Coach Calipari coached aligned with my goals, I sat down and talked with him one more time to make sure that he was going to put me in a position to be successful as long as I work hard and come into work every day,” said Brooks, who also considered North Carolina and Michigan State. “That’s what he said and that’s what I’m willing to do.”

    Both players have similar games in that they can put the ball on the floor and get all the way to the rim, knock down perimeter jumpers, post up on the wing and corral a rebound and put the ball up the floor. They don’t see it as a predicament that they play the same position at Kentucky, which may create a battle for minutes. With the two of them along with guards Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley, Calipari will have a lot of versatile players who can switch and also play some high-octane small ball.

    Since Calipari took over in 2009, the influx of one-and-done players has become a regular occurrence and Brooks and Whitney have spoken to several of those past standouts. Brooks has had conversations with Washington Wizards point guard John Wall and Charlotte Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. They’ve also talked to last season’s leading scorer P.J. Washington and P.J.’s father, Paul Sr., who was trying to have Brooks play at Findlay Prep (NV).

    Whitney has had conversations with two of the Wildcats’ standouts from this year, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro, who hit the decisive shot to down Houston in second round of the NCAA Tournament.

    Speaking with past and present players has helped Brooks and Whitney get a better grasp on what it takes to have success under Calipari, especially as inexperienced freshmen. A projected first-round pick in 2020 per ESPN.com, Whitney, who plans to sign his Letter of Intent May 3 at his old grammar school in Chicago, knows understanding how to cope with individual and team struggles is a part of a player’s maturation process.

    “Adversity is going to come but I want to know how they handle it and get as much information and knowledge as I can before I get on campus,” Whitney said. “I’m just trying to make the right decisions and that means making them on and off the court.”

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    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.