Surrounded by a horde of cameras and reporters as he sat down on Thursday, Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looked around and felt as if he was back in Lexington. He’s used to the attention and the scrutiny after helping the Wildcats when their first national championship in 15 years two months ago.
“Ain’t nothing new,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.
Kidd-Gilchrist is expected to be among the top five picks in the NBA draft, and could possibly be the first player not named Anthony Davis to be selected – whether Charlotte keeps the pick or trades the choice, as has been speculated in the past week. Davis is expected to go No. 1 on June 28 and Kidd-Gilchrist is okay with that, because he understands the value that the 6-foot-10 Davis brought to Kentucky last season.
“No competition. None at all,” Kidd-Gilchrist said, when asked if he had a friendly competition with Davis over the top spot. “Ant is an athletic player. A smart, long player. I just want to get picked, to be honest with you. 1, 2, 10, 11, 30. I want to win games. That’s what I’m about.”
Davis won every national player of the year award in his one season at Kentucky, as he impacted the game with his blocked shots, rebounds and defense. The 6-foot-8 Kidd-Gilchrist was also a noted defender, always up for the challenge of locking down the best perimeter player, but he also served the role as leader for the team.
“It was times we were breaking down and Mike would just come in and take the game over. Put us on his basically and carried us,” Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague said. “He was the heart. He’s a hard worker. The first person that’s going to be in the gym, the last player to leave. A great defender. A great scorer at the rim. He’s very athletic and long. He’s going to give it his all every game.”
Though he was the youngest player on the team, Kidd-Gilchrist took it upon himself to meet with Coach John Calipari to find the best way to prepare after the team lost to Indiana early in the season. Kidd-Gilchrist helped organize early morning workouts for his teammates, sending out text messages to tell them when to show up. “It worked obviously, we won the national championship,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I like to lead for my team. Just be an example on the court.”
That’s why when someone mentioned that he would likely still be 18 when training camp begins, Kidd-Gilchrist replied, “I’m not worried about my age at all.”
Kidd-Gilchrist will turn 19 on Sept. 28 and revealed his youth when discussing the player whose game he’d most like to emulate at the next level — Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen. “I like Pippen’s game a lot. That’s old school,” said Kidd-Gilchrist. “But I like Pippen. That’s old school to me. Don’t have to score. A defensive guy more than anything. And a winner. I loved him.”
If he’s available at No. 3, the Wizards would have a hard time passing on Gilchrist. Gilchrist and John Wall would certainly increase the Washington following in Kentucky. He said a union with the Wizards would be “fun. Fun. For me, for him. For all the Kentucky fans, I think it would be fun.”
Kidd-Gilchrist has been praised for his high motor and relentless attack on both ends, but questions remain about his ability to make perimeter shots. He declared that he does have a more accurate outside shot, but his role at Kentucky required him to make plays closer at the basket.
“I have something to prove, I think,” he said. “I have something to prove to everybody next year. That’s what I’m going to do.”
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