Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Kentucky's Immanuel Quickley thanks 'Lord and Savior Jesus Christ' in entering NBA Draft

Immanuel Quickley was a McDonald’s high school All-American in 2018 and enrolled at Kentucky, only to find himself coming off the bench and averaging just 5.2 points as a freshman. But as a sophomore in 2019-20, his 16.1 points led the Wildcats in scoring and he was named the SEC’s Player of the Year.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

On Monday, he announced on social media that he’ll enter the 2020 NBA Draft. In doing so, Quickley first thanked his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with the talent to play the game of basketball. With God, all things are possible.”

The major improvement in Quickley’s game, going from his freshman to sophomore year, can be credited in part to his faith in Jesus. The night before he returned to Kentucky for his sophomore season, a guest speaker at an event hosted by his home church — someone who had never met Quickley — asked to pray for him. Quickley began doing devotionals twice a day when he got back to campus, largely as a result of the conversation he had with the guest speaker.

“And I decided to start showing who I was, that I’m not just a basketball player,” he told The Athletic. “That I’m a Christian who happens to play basketball. I wanted to get that out there. That’s part of the reason I probably wasn’t ready to blossom [freshman] year, because I really wasn’t showing my faith and showing who I was for Jesus.”

Quickley said he’ll forego the final two years of his collegiate eligibility by signing with an agent. He’s the third Kentucky player to enter this year’s draft, joining Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey.

“Immanuel was an absolute pleasure to coach over the last two years,” UK head coach John Calipari said in a statement, via the Lexington Herald-Leader. “I had as much fun coaching him and watching him grow than just about any player I’ve ever coached. … he absolutely works his tail off. He takes his conditioning seriously, has unbelievable discipline, unwavering faith, confidence and spent just about all of his extra time in that gym.

“His reward: SEC Player of the Year, as voted on by the coaches. I’ve been in this league for 11 years and only had that happen three other times. Think about that with some of the kids we’ve had go through here.”

A 6-foot-3 guard with a 6-10 wingspan who’s also a stout defender, Quickley is projected to be selected in the second round of the draft, which is scheduled for June 25 but could be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I think I fit in very well at the NBA level,” Quickley told ESPN. “I shot 48 percent from 3 in the SEC this season, and that obviously translates to the NBA game, whether it’s catch-and-shoot or shooting off the dribble. At 6-3 with a 6-10 wingspan, my length and toughness allow me to [defend] both guard positions. I am a tenacious defender, which I know will be a trait that NBA coaches gravitate toward. Lastly, I am sure that my strong work ethic will pay off, and whatever situation I get to, I will be able to succeed.”

RELATED STORIES: 
Kentucky’s Immanuel Quickley leading the Wildcats as he shares his faith
Mo Isom hosts college basketball-themed Huddle Up to discuss God’s power, plans
POY frontrunner Obi Toppin of Dayton looks to God amid coronavirus cancellations