Former VSN Player of the Year will turn pro after breakout season at Kentucky

by Derek Toney

Former John Carroll School basketball standout Immanuel Quickley announced Monday he’s forgoing his final two seasons at the University of Kentucky and will enter this summer’s NBA Draft.

“First and foremost, I want to thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with the talent to play the game of basketball,” said Quickley via Tweeter. “With God, all things are possible.

I want to thank Coach John Calipari, ‘Coach Cal,’ the entire UK coaching staff and administration, my brothers/teammates, and Big Blue Nation for all your love and support the past two years. I’m grateful for everyone that helped me along my journey.”

Quickley, who was Varsity Sports Network’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year in 2016, as well as a McDonald’s All-American as a senior at John Carroll, blossomed as a sophomore this past season for Kentucky, winning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors. The Wildcats won the SEC regular season championship and were regarded as a Final Four contender before the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament.

“It saddens me that my brothers and I were not able to compete for the national championship this year due to circumstances beyond our control,” Quickley said.

After averaging 5.2 points and 1.8 rebounds as a freshman last season, the 6-foot-3 Quickley improved to 16.2 points (team-best), 4.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists this past season.  He’s the first former area high schooler to win Player of the Year in a “Power 5” collegiate league since former Calvert Hall College star Juan Dixon won Atlantic Coast Conference Player of Year honors at Maryland in 2002.

John Zito, who coached Quickley his senior and junior seasons at John Carroll, said “confidence” was the major difference for Quickley at Kentucky.

“It was two different guys out there. He was himself this year,” said Zito, who stepped down after leading John Carroll to the 2018 MIAA A Conference title with Quickley and Montez Mathis (Rutgers). “Freshman year was trying to find his way. The adjustment from high school to college is tough especially at the highest of the levels like Kentucky.”

Zito said Quickley “always wanted to play in the NBA.” Zito said he’s talked to two dozen NBA scouts the last couple of seasons about Quickley.

“He’s going to work until he figures it out,” said Zito. “He’s self-made, not only his work ethic but his laser-focus.”

Tony Martin remembers Quickley as a nine-year old attending his camp at John Carroll when he was coach.

“Here’s this gangly kid that people didn’t pay that much attention to,” said Martin, who coached Quickley as a freshman and sophomore. “It didn’t take long to realize that guy was something special.”

Quickley exploded onto the local hoops scene as a sophomore, leading the Patriots to the Baltimore Catholic League Tournament title, hitting a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining in regulation to defeat Mount St. Joseph, 51-50, in the final at Towson University.

It was one of several late-game heroics during the 2015-16 season by Quickley, a Havre de Grace resident.

Martin joked Quickley spent so much time in John Carroll’s gym “he had the alarm code to the school.”

“He’s an old-head, a veteran who’s mature and thinking ahead of everybody else.”

Quickley joins former Mount St. Joseph star Jalen Smith – who announced last week he’s forgoing his final two seasons at Maryland – in entering the NBA draft pool. Smith, a two-time VSN Player of the Year and a McDonald’s All-American with Quickley in 2018, is projected as a middle first to early second round pick.

Quickley is projected as a late first to middle second round selection.

“He can last for a while in the NBA because of his mentality, his maturity, his ability to think the game,” said Martin, who now coaches at Cape Fear Academy in North Carolina. “I think he can overcome whatever deficiency he has compared to the best athletes walking on the planet with his mindset and approach to the game.”