Kentucky basketball: How have Calipari's outbound transfers fared?
With Kahlil Whitney’s announcement that he’s leaving Kentucky, we’re reminded of John Calipari’s annual pronouncement that UK basketball isn’t for everybody. But of the players who’ve left the program under Calipari, which ones made a good decision and which ones just plain goofed up? Here’s the history of outgoing UK players under Cal.
Dodson was a JUCO player brought in to provide outside shooting for Calipari’s first UK team. He averaged just 6.0 points per game and shot 35% from 3-point range, which ended up being that team’s sole significant weakness. UK lost in the Elite Eight, and Dodson ended up at Southern Miss, where he was arrested for burglary and somehow did play a season in Hattiesburg, averaging 11.2 points per game.
The son of the former Florida star of the same name, Poole was a 4-star recruit who barely saw the court for Calipari’s 2011 squad. He scored 4 points all season, as UK ended up in the Final Four. Poole transferred to Georgia Tech, where he played 2 more seasons, but he averaged just 2.7 points per game.
Killeya-Jones was a 6-10 McDonald’s All-American who spent 2 seasons largely riding the bench in Lexington. He averaged 3.2 points per game for his UK career, posting his UK high of a dozen points early in his freshman season. Killeya-Jones left for NC State, but ultimately didn’t play for the Wolfpack, choosing to play internationally rather than await additional college eligibility.
After a season and a semester, Green played steady minutes for Kentucky, averaging 9.0 points per game. He transferred to Washington, scored 11.6 points per game, and then got himself rendered academically ineligible for the spring semester. Barring a surprising final chapter, Green seems likely to end up as a McDonald’s All-American who underachieved at each of his college stops.
A McDonald’s All-American, the tall and sharp-shooting Wiltjer played 2 seasons at UK, averaging 5.0 points per game on the 2012 title team and scoring 10.2 points per game on the 2013 squad that struggled into the NIT. He then left for Gonzaga, where he continued to improve, scoring 1,374 points in 2 seasons there. From that standpoint, the move was a good one. But Wiltjer’s lack of speed and athleticism followed him, as he went on to play only a handful of NBA games, scoring 13 points in 44 career minutes. If the goal was to score more points in college, the move was a good one … but his NBA career never came to fruition.
A spindly big man, Lee played 3 seasons in Lexington, averaging just 3.9 points per game. His best game was probably a 10-point, 8-rebound effort in the NCAA Elite Eight against Michigan in his freshman campaign of 2014. After averaging 6.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game as a junior, Lee transferred to California for his final season. He did play better near his West Coast roots, averaging 11.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, and eventually playing in Europe.
Wynyard, a New Zealand import whose parents were champion woodcutters, was a developmental long-shot who never really panned out at UK. He scored 19 points in 2 seasons at UK and transferred to Santa Clara. He never played there, choosing instead to return home and play pro ball in New Zealand and then in Australia.
Harrow transferred to Kentucky from NC State, where he had showed great potential as a freshman in 2011. After sitting out UK’s title-winning season, he led UK to an NIT appearance in 2013, generally seeming to be unable to handle the demands of the Big Blue Nation pressure cooker. He did average 9.9 points and 2.8 assists per game, but the season was a disaster. Harrow’s last 2 games were a 2-for-15 shooting performance in an SEC Tournament loss to Vandy, and playing 9 minutes in an NIT loss at Robert Morris. He left for Georgia State, where he scored 1,134 points in 2 seasons, and recently played in Greece.
A 4-star recruit, Matthews struggled offensively in his 1 season in Lexington, scoring just 1.7 points per game in 2016. He left for Michigan, where he scored 12.6 points per game in 2 outstanding seasons. Matthews declared for the NBA Draft in 2019, but then tore his ACL in a predraft workout for the Boston Celtics. While his NBA future remains in limbo, Matthews developed his game at Michigan to the extent of at least having a realistic NBA shot.
After missing a season with knee surgery, Baker was an outside shooter who played little in his 1 season on-court in Lexington. He scored 2.3 points per game, shooting 33% for UK, before transferring to Arizona. In twice as many minutes at Arizona, Baker is averaging 6.6 points per game. Likely recruited over at UK, he has at least seen extended action for the “other” Wildcats.
Many assumed that the younger Calipari, who scored 11 points in 2 seasons at UK, was just a human victory cigar. When he transferred to the University of Detroit, Calipari proved that he can hoop more than a bit. Currently averaging over 7 points per game, Brad has connected on 35 3-point shots. That’s more treys than any Kentucky player this season. Meanwhile, Calipari would never have gotten significant minutes in Lexington, where memories of Saul Smith and Sean Sutton still linger.