New UK coach Mark Pope walking into his first Kentucky-Louisville recruiting battle

One of the most talented players on BYU’s team last season has opened the possibility of following his coach to Lexington.

Former Charlotte and BYU center Aly Khalifa told on Sunday that his three options in the transfer portal include a move to Kentucky, a commitment to Louisville or a return to Brigham Young.

New UK head coach Mark Pope coached Khalifa for one season with the Cougars. Previously, Khalifa played the 2021-22 and the 2022-23 seasons at Charlotte.

A 6-foot-11, 270-pound center, Khalifa is from Egypt and entered the transfer portal Friday, the same day Pope was officially announced as the next Kentucky coach.

Khalifa entered the portal with a “do not contact” tag, which often signals that a player intends to follow his coach to a new school.

Known for his deft passing ability, Khalifa has acquired plenty of accolades already in his college career.

Center Aly Khalifa (50) averaged 5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists while starting 26 games for BYU this past season.
Center Aly Khalifa (50) averaged 5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists while starting 26 games for BYU this past season.

Aly Khalifa’s history at Charlotte and BYU

Khalifa — who spent time at the NBA Global Academy in Australia and took part in several international basketball events as a recruit — redshirted the 2020-21 season at Charlotte.

He arrived in the 49ers program as a three-star recruit and the No. 60 overall center in the 2020 recruiting class, per 247Sports.

In his first college season during the 2021-22 campaign, he made an immediate impact: Khalifa had per-game averages of 7.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

He was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year and a member of that league’s All-Freshman team.

Also impressive? As a first-year college player Khalifa had a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

He also displayed signs that he could be a stretch big at the college level by shooting 35.1% from 3-point range, but only on 57 attempts for the season.

Charlotte went 17-14 overall that season and lost its first game in the C-USA Tournament.

As a redshirt sophomore in the 2022-23 season, Khalifa boosted some of his stats.

He averaged 11.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Khalifa was Charlotte’s leading rebounder, second-leading scorer and second-leading assist man that season.

Khalifa, who was an All-C-USA honorable mention player in the 2022-23 season, also showed up when it mattered most for the 49ers in the postseason.

He was an integral part in Charlotte winning the College Basketball Invitational: Across Charlotte’s four games in the event, Khalifa averaged 10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest.

In the championship game against Eastern Kentucky, Khalifa scored 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field to lead all scorers. he also had four rebounds and four assists in that title game victory.

Khalifa took a big step in his 3-point shooting during the 2022-23 season as well: He connected on 38.1% shots from deep on 126 total 3-point attempts.

He did this while playing for a Charlotte team that ranked second-to-last in the nation in adjusted tempo.

In April 2023, Khalifa announced that he was transferring from Charlotte to BYU.

Under Pope’s tutelage and in his distinct offensive system Khalifa thrived.

Across 29 games played (26 starts) Khalifa averaged 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, but he unlocked his passing ability to an exceptional level.

Khalifa averaged a career-best 4 assists per game, which ranked 141st in the nation. He ranked first in the Big 12 Conference and seventh in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.59-1).

Per Kenpom, Khalifa’s 32.8 assist rate — calculated as a player’s assists divided by the field goals made by a player’s teammates while he is on the court — ranked 34th nationally.

He totaled 115 assists against 32 turnovers for the season.

Khalifa did regress from 3-point range in Provo, though: He shot a career-worst 31.5% from the field on 92 total attempts from 3.

He played 19.4 minutes per game in his distinct role for the Cougars last season.

According to college basketball statistician Evan Miyakawa, Khalifa ranked as the No. 11 overall transfer this offseason, as of Sunday afternoon.

Last year, former Kentucky coach John Calipari brought in frontcourt player Tre Mitchell via the portal. Mitchell, who is now out of college eligibility, ranked as the No. 16 overall transfer, per Miyakawa.

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