Sahvir Wheeler: ‘I want to make a run at a national championship’

Sahvir Wheeler (15) of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts to a call during the first half of a game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Stegeman Coliseum on January 7, 2020 in Athens, Georgia. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/TNS)
Sahvir Wheeler (15) of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts to a call during the first half of a game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Stegeman Coliseum on January 7, 2020 in Athens, Georgia. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Former Georgia star discusses transfer to Kentucky

Two days after letting the basketball world know he had chosen Kentucky as his transfer destination, former Georgia point guard Sahvir Wheeler met with reporters via a video conference call Wednesday to answer questions about his recent decisions.

The 5-foot-10 rising junior was the seventh of nine 2020-21 UGA basketball players – and four starters -- who entered the NCAA transfer portal in the past year. As the Bulldogs’ leading scorer (14.0 ppg) and single-season record holder for assists (193), Wheeler arguably is potentially the most hurtful loss.

Following are some excerpts from Wheeler’s 15-minute question-and-answer exchange with reporters, which can be viewed in its entirety on Kentucky’s Vimeo site:

On how isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic influenced his decision to leave Georgia …

Wheeler: “I think the biggest thing for me was the fact that we had the COVID year. I was isolated the majority of the year, not being able to be around my family and friends. I’ve only seen my parents twice during this past school year, in 10 months or so, and that’s something, you know, that’s unheard of. So, I was forced to really look in and see what I value. I was forced, you know, to kind of like re-evaluate the whole situation as far as looking at basketball from a business standpoint. I wanted to see what opportunities were going to be out there where I could better myself and have an opportunity to make a run at the national championship and also put myself in position to play at the next level and achieve my dreams. After a lot of re-evaluation and knowing that the one-time transfer rule was possibly a thing that could pass this year, I decided to look elsewhere and eventually end up at the University of Kentucky.”

On any concerns about the SEC’s intraconference transfer policy, which currently requires a special waiver for immediate eligibility …

Wheeler: “I mean, a little bit. But I felt like, from what I’ve gathered with my parents and their resources, I wouldn’t have made the move if I felt like I was going to have to sit out this year. But, I think that rule is going to pass. Hopefully it will; I’m pretty sure it will. At the end of the day, I was just looking for the best opportunity for me whether I was going to play this year or I wasn’t. I was looking forward to an opportunity to play right away. When I was able to play, to have an immediate impact, make an impact on winning, make a run at the national championship, and surround myself with guys who are going to help elevate my game not only from a player standpoint but from a coaching standpoint, that are going to hold me accountable on a day-to-day basis to be at my best, to be the best version of myself.”

On advantages of staying in the SEC …

Wheeler: “I’ve been in this conference for two years. I’m almost like a vet now. I know what to expect. I know the different coaching styles and the different coaching staffs and what they’re like. I know what it takes to win. Not only that, I am all-conference, I am All-SEC here, so it’s a conference I’m super familiar with and comfortable with and also productive in.”

On playing in Rupp Arena as visitor two seasons ago and what he remembers about that experience …

Wheeler: “Rupp Arena, obviously, is a one-of-a-kind environment and one of the best environments in college basketball. To defend myself a little bit there, that game I was battling an ankle injury. I was wearing a boot beforehand and after the game, so that kind of hindered my performance there. But it’s a big-time, big-time place. Like, when you come into Rupp, I’m like, ‘Bro, am I playing in the NBA right now?’ So, it’s a one-of-a-kind thing, and I’m super excited to be able to play as the home team and be able to represent Big Blue Nation and go out there and be excited and win games and have Kentucky back where it’s supposed to be.”

On committing to Kentucky just a few days after the Wildcats signed point guard TyTy Washington …

Wheeler: “I wouldn’t be here without my self-confidence. That’s just being honest. Not a lot of 5-10, sub 6-foot guards playing in the SEC at a high-major are productive. You’ve got to have a little bit of self-confidence and know what you bring to a team no matter who’s there. But, coach (John Calipari) was very straight-up and genuine from the beginning. Like, I knew that he was recruiting another guard and I knew that it would be a guard that we could complement each other. TyTy is unselfish. I’m unselfish. He can score. I can score. He can really shoot it. That’s something I’m working on and hopefully you all are going to be able to say that about me at the end of the year. Like, I knew everything that was going on and I’m super excited and looking forward to the opportunity to get to know him and build a bond and build a friendship and a brotherhood that will last a lifetime.”

On compensating for his size …

Wheeler: “Yeah, like you said, the average is 6-3, but I feel like I’m the fastest or one of the fastest Coach Cal is going to have. I’m probably up there with (De’Aaron) Fox. It’s pretty ironic because Fox is from Houston. But I think the advantages that I’m going to have is similar to Tyler Ulis as far as guarding the ball, being a defensive pest, being disruptive on that end, and offensively using my speed to get into the paint and be a distributor, scoring when I need to, being a playmaker, making the right plays, trying to make everyone else’s life easier so we can win some games down here.”

On being compared with Ulis …

Wheeler: “That’s cool with me. Tyler Ulis was the SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. So, if I’m getting that comparison, I think I’m doing some things right. Obviously, I have to continue to get better to live up to that, but I’m super excited. He was a successful guard in college. He was super successful here at the University of Kentucky, and I’m really cool with that. I’m also cool with being the next, the one and only Sahvir Wheeler as well.”

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