He says he was 100 percent healthy last season but also admits he lost strength after having open heart surgery just a few months before he arrived on the University of Kentucky campus.
“I wasn’t able to perform the best I could last year. I am 100 percent healthy now and ready to go and play and show these coaches what I can do,” said redshirt freshman offensive guard Kenneth Horsey of Sanford, Fla.
It’s unusual for an 18-year-old athlete to need open heart surgery and Horsey said family support and prayers, including those from Kentucky fans, helped get him through the scary ordeal and go through last season.
But did he really believe everything was going to be okay health-wise last year or was he just hoping it would be?
“Wow. That’s a hard question. The only thing I can really say is that the last year God has been teaching me about patience,” Horsey said. “He has shown me how to be able to stay down and wait for my time.
“I really feel like now my time has come. I just got to … it’s just one of those things you pray about and just have to have faith that God is going to bring you out. Whatever tests he brought you and put you in, he’s going to get you out of it. That’s all I can say.”
The UK lineman will still need an electrocardiogram every six months or so just to make everything is still okay with his heart.
“But I am 100 percent, ready to go and ready to show BBN what I can do on the field this year,” he said.
His mother, Shari, still calls or texts him daily to check on him. Horsey says he doubts she’ll ever stop doing that.
“If you have met my mom, you will understand how she is. She might say she is not checking as much on me, but she is going to Mom out every now and then,” the UK redshirt freshman said. “I don’t think anybody in the world could stop my mom from worrying. Everything that happened probably impacted her more than it did me.
“Seeing your son go through something like that … it was hard for all of us. They (his parents) don’t worry about me as much. They know I am in good hands with the trainers and staff. We all know the coaching staff and athletic trainers have my best interests at heart and if I can play, I’m going to play.”
Certainly his position coach, John Schlarman, is going to look after him because for the last year Schlarman has been receiving chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with cancer. Horsey said Schlarman’s courage helped him keep his own struggles in perspective.
“You still have to remember how good you have it. Just being able to watch coach Schlarman was amazing. Sometimes I would even forget he was going through what he did because he would never change. It was inspiring and still is,” Horsey said.
“You can ask anybody, he never changed. Every time he could be there, he was there with us and he was always smiling. He was always ready to go and always pumped. He brought that energy every day.”
Schlarman says Horsey is an “amazing story” to have had open heart surgery in April of his high school senior season and then be in full pads last fall.
“As a parent of four, that amazed me that he got to that point and that they (doctors) were confident he could do that. When we sat down after the season, everybody wants to contribute right away when they get here and it is always a little bit of a disappointment when they come in and redshirt like he did. It’s humbling,” Schlarman said.
“The thing we discussed is how much of a success story he was even though he didn’t play the game. The fact that he practiced and got himself in shape. He came in probably 330 (pounds) and right now is about 317 and looking really good. He has a lot of room for improvement just because he went through all he went through last year.
“That’s all behind him and he is building on just being healthy. I am excited about what he could do for us down the line and hopefully as early as this year.”
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Ask anyone who has seen Kentucky freshman basketball player Kahlil Whitney play and they are likely to talk about the high motor he always has when he plays and his incredible athleticism that can turn heads no matter who he’s playing with or against.
“Seeing how the greats were successful at getting to their spots and having that dog mentality impressed me. All the great players do that. I expend all my energy being very aggressive and get the best out of that. That’s what gets my game going,” Whitney, who grew up with former Wildcat Anthony Davis as his favorite player, said.
During some AAU games, Whitney made plays that sometimes had everyone in the gym watching.
“It is just God-given ability and talent. God gave me great athletic ability and I can block shots, go to the other end and dunk. I notice it when the crowd is roaring and I can barely hear myself speak. It is amazing. I really like that,” Whitney said.
He could have Big Blue fans screaming a lot this year, especially since his physical presence could have him even playing some power forward if coach John Calipari goes with a smaller lineup.
“The first time I went to Rupp Arena for Big Blue Madness it was crazy. They sold out for that. It was an experience like no other,” Whitney said. “Coach (Calipari) talks about big-time games and how the crowd will be. I like interacting with the crowd and getting momentum. You have to know how to handle that.”
He’s learning just how passionate Kentucky fans can be from social media and has been recognized often by fans since his arrival at UK in June.
“When I was a kid I wanted that. I would take pictures with Jabari Parker and all those guys,” Whitney said. “If people want to take pictures of me or get an autograph, I love it. I’ll take it every day.
“If I have to take an hour to sign autographs, I will take an hour. It’s amazing to have people look up to you and aspire to be like you. That’s a huge honor I don’t take lightly.”
Whitney says he is a family-oriented person – has a sister and two brothers – and likes to spend time around the house watching Netflix, paying Fortnight or just hanging out.
“I am a jokester, a clown. I like making people laugh and stuff like that. I am just a fun guy,” Whitney said. A lot of people don’t know that I play the drums. I just like to put a smile on your face any way I can.”
Like UK teammate Immanuel Quickley, Whitney says he played drums in his church as a kid.
“I started off with a bongo (drum) when I was in church. After that when I was old enough to stay on rhythm, I took drum classes. I used to play at church on Sundays with the choir and stuff like that and really liked it,” he said.
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When her daughter, Maci Morris, was a huge hit with fans at the Ohio UK Convention, it was no surprise to Patti Morris.
“We go places and teenagers and kids just mob her at the malls, so I am kind of used to it,” Patti Morris said. “It’s always nice to see she is appreciated. The fans who have watched her, it’s great. She is a tremendous person and they see that. They love her.”
Morris was sensational her four years at UK after earning Miss Basketball honors at Bell County High School. She’s now getting ready to embark on a professional career in Italy.
“When you are at Kentucky you are surrounded by so many fans and you have people come up to you all the time and show and explain how much they love Kentucky basketball and watching you play and things like that,” Maci Morris said. “It’s a blessing and I am so appreciative of all the fans. I wouldn’t say I am surprised any more by the attention from fans because they were great the whole time I was at Kentucky.”
Morris could have left UK after her freshman season when numerous players and assistant coaches left for various reasons. Instead, she stayed and became an all-SEC player.
“I was thinking about that today when she was talking. That took guts to do that. Loyalty,” Patti Morris said. “Probably more fans appreciate what she did than she knows. It speaks to her character but she is that kind of person to stick with you. When the going gets tough, she will be there for you.
“I don’t think she really knows how beloved she is by fans. She probably has not had time to reflect on that yet but I can see everywhere how much the fans do love her and that means a lot to me.”
If you are a Maci Morris fan, she has her own sports apparel brand now. The logo —designed by former UK teammate Mackenzie Cann — looks like the mountains to reflect Morris’ eastern Kentucky roots.
“I am not designing clothes. I am just selling some athletic wear with my logo on it that I think people will like,” Morris said.
Go to macimorrisofficial.com to see more about her brand.
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He barely played at Trinity his sophomore year and then was injured his junior season after he transferred to Ballard. However, Jared Casey’s talent still made him a four-star recruit who originally committed to Oregon before a change of heart brought him to Kentucky.
“I am looking at the next level. That is why I came here to get coached by coach (Brad) White, one of the best coaches around,” said Casey, a freshman outside linebacker. “Everybody knows Kentucky is known for linebackers and I want to make it to the league (NFL) just like they did. This was just the obvious choice for me.”
Casey had 70 tackles, including 15.5 tackles for loss, as a senior. His workout/camp performances between his junior and senior years let his stock rise to where he was regarded as one of the nation’s top 20 outside linebackers despite his lack of playing time as a sophomore and junior.
“I think honestly if I would have played my sophomore and junior years I probably would not have ended up at Kentucky. I feel like I would have had a bigger status and more exposure and I would have had film. Coaches wanted to see my film from junior year and a lot didn’t offer me when I didn’t have film,” Casey said.
“It was really a blessing (not playing as a sophomore and junior) or I probably would not have ended up at Kentucky. I love it here. It was more than I expected. I have learned a lot and getting coached by one of the best coaches around is just what I needed.”
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Quote of the Week: “I think this move has revitalized him. He’s really looking forward to this opportunity. I think he’s poised to have a real breakout year and make Big Blue Nation proud. And remember, he’s just 28 years old,” agent Ed Berry on Randall Cobb’s first year with the Dallas Cowboys after playing eight years in Green Bay.
Quote of the Week 2: “I want to be a coach. Coming to the SEC to play might not seem like a big deal to some people but I do think it kind of helps your resume out when you start looking for jobs,” quarterback Sawyer Smith on why he transferred from Troy to Kentucky.
Quote of the Week 3: “He is pretty much like me. He is very versatile, he can spread the floor, he’s great defensively, he is a high flier. He’s just pretty impressive in everything he does,” Kentucky freshman Kahlil Whitney on freshman teammate Keion Brooks Jr.
Maci Morris’ mother is not sure her daughter fully comprehends how popular she became with UK fans. (Larry Vaught Photo)
Kentucky freshman basketball player Kahlil Whitney says he will always have time for fans because he remembers taking pictures with older players when he was a kid. (McDonald’s All-American Game Photo)
Kenneth Horsey is ready “to show BBN” what he can do this season as he continues his comeback from open heart surgery in April of 2018. (Vicky Graff Photo)