Transfer McDonald finding his groove at right time for WKU

Junior guard Kahlil McDonald makes his way toward the basket during Saturday night’s game against Troy. The Toppers defeated Troy 77-58.

Zach Greenwell

Kahlil McDonald’s junior season at WKU has been all about adjustments.

From junior college to Division I, from New York City to Bowling Green, from shooting guard to point guard.

Everything’s been different for McDonald since he arrived, but he said it’s all been for the best.

“It’s been a tough transition,” he said. “But I feel like I’m getting better at it as we play more games.”

McDonald said he chose WKU after two seasons at Blinn College in Texas because he wanted a school with tradition — one where he felt he could win.

The wins haven’t come as quickly as McDonald and WKU would have liked this season, but his production has started to pick up steam.

His playing time found a boost when the Toppers lost point guards Ken Brown and Brandon Peters to academic issues, and McDonald was forced to move to the position.

He started five of the first six Sun Belt games as a result, recording at least 28 minutes in each.

“He’s really growing up on the job, which isn’t easy,” Head Coach Ken McDonald said. “He’s playing out of position, which also isn’t easy. There’s a lot of pressure on him … and he’s handled it.”

Kahlil McDonald said the biggest hurdle to jump when he arrived at WKU was his conditioning. He admitted that he wasn’t in the best shape he could have been, which he said affected both his shooting and defense.

The junior came with a reputation as a 3-point threat but made just nine shots from behind the arc in his first 10 games. He then made 16 in the next seven contests.

“He’s gotten his body in great shape to play the minutes,” Ken McDonald said. “He’s letting the game come to him rather than forcing bad shots.”

Sophomore guard Jamal Crook has also become one of Kahlil McDonald’s biggest fans. The two have split the duties at the point over the past few weeks, which Crook said has made them both better players.

“I think it’s good that you’ve got two guys that can come in and handle the ball and handle pressure in different situations,” Crook said. “He’s more of a scorer. You can move him to the off-guard, I can penetrate and find him, and he can do some things also.”

Kahlil McDonald’s low point at WKU came on Dec. 14 when he was left off the Toppers’ trip to Memphis. He wasn’t suspended, but Ken McDonald said the guard “lost his cool” in one isolated incident.

But even the emotional strain of playing Division I has eased, Kahlil McDonald said.

The slow pace of life in Bowling Green has had a calming effect on him, providing a foil to his home in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Here, it’s like getting away from my hometown and really being able to focus more on my career and education,” he said. “Being home is kind of a distraction sometimes, so it’s worked out for the best.”

Ken McDonald said he’s watched his newest point guard mature in his time at WKU.

That growth has been well-timed as the Toppers hit the home stretch of their season.

“Sometimes it takes a little while to get used to just how high a level this is. It’s intense,” Ken McDonald said. “Sometimes you’ve got to get a little low before you move on, and that’s Kahlil. But we’re a much better team now because of him.”