Last April, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was named MVP of the Derby Festival Classic in Louisville after an impressive showing in a 122-109 win. He filled up the stat sheet with 29 points on 12-15 shooting, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists in only 19 minutes. Again, the game was in Louisville … and there were UL fans there to see 3, possibly 4, future Cardinals … and yes, they booed Shai when he was introduced. They booed again from behind the bench as SGA won the 3 point shooting competition at halftime. His response – he smiled and gave them a thumbs down gesture (I’m sure he knows now to give Ls down, but we’ll let that slide).
Less than a week later, 247Sports updated and released their final rankings moving Shai up from 42 to 19 overall – giving him 5-star status. This was the only recruiting service to have him that high, and also the only group to rank him ahead of his incoming teammate point guard, Quade Green.
Over the summer, the questions became:
- Who will start at PG?
- Who will get the most minutes at PG?
- Will Cal play them together?
- Could either go pro after 1 year?
Both guards were rumored to be playing well in practice, but Gilgeous-Alexander was being mentioned often because some were surprised based on his ranking coming in. Besides 247Sports bumping him up right at the end, he was still in the low to mid-30s according to Rivals, Scout, and ESPN. Shai had grown, literally … he was originally mentioned as a 6’4″ shooting guard prospect just over a year ago when he de-committed from the Florida Gators. At Kentucky’s pro day, a year later, SGA was measured at 6’6″ with an amazing 7′ wingspan.
Shai earned the start over Quade in the opener against Utah Valley and easily had the more impressive stat line.
Shai (+12) and Quade (-8) … big difference. The numbers didn’t lie either, his pressure caused turnovers that led to breakaway dunks for himself and Hamidou Diallo that completely changed the energy in the game. An early second-half blitz in the form of an 18-0 run turned a 12 point deficit into a 6 point lead.
Since the opening game, Cal has toyed with his young lineup to find the mixture he wants at different times. Both guards have found their place and have had their good games and bad games. Either guy can start or come off the bench. But, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was an incredible get by John Calipari. He actually reached out to the Kentucky coaches after deciding to not play for Florida – he recruited Kentucky.
With Jarred Vanderbilt and Jemarl Baker yet to play, to go along with some sickness and injuries on the team, Gilgeous-Alexander has been the perfect guy with his height, length, and guard skills combination to fill in for guys up and down the lineup. This season could literally be a disaster by UK standards right now if not for him. Shai has really had to step up recently playing 38 and 39 minutes in the last 2 games. He now leads the SEC in steals with 35 and is 4th in assists with 69 while shooting very well:
- 2 Point FG: 50%
- 3 Point FG: 45%
- Free Throws: 84.5%
The gig is up nationally as well; the most recent 2018 NBA Mock Draft I could find was put out by CBS Sports yesterday and Shai has crept onto the board.
- #11 – Kevin Knox
- #12 – Hamidou Diallo
- #27 – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander