A year ago this time ESPN had Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the 35th-best prospect in the high school class of 2017. Now the point guard from Hamilton, Ont., is the 11th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
Though he started slowly for the John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcat this season, Gilgeous-Alexander parlayed a standout second half into a handshake from Adam Silver and a spot on the Los Angeles Clippers’ roster (after first getting drafted by Charlotte and immediately traded) for the foreseeable future.
Here’s a little more info on the latest Canadian NBA lottery pick:
Name: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Position: Point guard
Weight: 180 pounds
Drafted: First round, 11th overall by the Hornets in 2018 (traded to the Clippers)
Former school: Kentucky
DUAL HOMETOWNS, DUAL HAMILTONS
Gilgeous-Alexander was born in Toronto, but grew up in Hamilton. For his last two years of high school, he attended Hamilton Heights Christian Academy — but it wasn’t in Hamilton. It’s in Chattanooga, Tenn.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT HIM
“Since we’ve been watching him, he’s continuously improved. Looking at him physically, he’s six-foot-six; he has a seven-foot wingspan. He’s a legitimate point guard. He has plenty of room to get stronger. He’s going to be able to guard at least two, maybe three, positions. He has a high floor to me, but he also has an extremely high ceiling. When you add that trajectory to everything he has going for him as a player and as a prospect, to me he’s one of the biggest sleepers, most exciting guys in the draft.” — Josh Gershon, scout, 247Sports.com
WHAT HE’S SAYING ABOUT HIMSELF
“I feel like I’m the best playmaking, defending and leadership-wise at my position [in the 2018 NBA Draft class] — I feel like I do those better than anybody in the draft, not just point guards. I think my ability to get into the lane is really special.”
Calling Gilgeous-Alexander a late bloomer would be a stretch — he was a four-star recruit courted by such major NCAA programs as Florida, Syracuse and Texas, and he played his one NCAA season at one-and-done factory Kentucky.
But he was ranked just 35th in the high school class of 2017 by ESPN, behind six of his future Kentucky teammates, and wasn’t initially expected to play as large a role for the Wildcats this year as he did. He started just two of his first 15 games for Kentucky, and he didn’t crack 20 points before Christmas.
After that, though, he became a leader and major contributor, playing 30 minutes or more in all but one of Kentucky’s 2018 games, and putting up two standout performances in the NCAA Tournament.
FIT AS A FIDDLE
NBA Scouting Combine measurements revealed Gilgeous-Alexander has just 3.0 percent body fat, the lowest of everyone tested this year. In fact, it was the lowest number since Cleveland Cavaliers guard George Hill measured 3.0 percent himself in 2008–09.
For comparison’s sake: The other top point guards in the draft had 5.35 percent body fat (Trae Young) and 5.6 percent (Collin Sexton). The highest body fat percentage measurement at the Combine this season belonged to Jontay Porter, with 13.85 percent.
HE’S ON TEAM LEBRON
Gilgeous-Alexander weighed in on the Jordan-vs.-LeBron debate during the NBA playoffs after the Cavaliers’ Game 1 loss to Golden State. He may have also alienated a few MJ fans in the process.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Like Andrew Wiggins, Gilgeous-Alexander has a track star mother. Charmaine Gilgeous competed in women’s 400 metres for Antigua and Barbuda at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
NEXT IN LINE
With SGA’s selection, the streak of consecutive years with at least one Canadian taken in the draft has been extended to nine. Here’s the list of players whose footsteps Gilgeous-Alexander is following in:
2017: Dillon Brooks (45th overall)
2016: Jamal Murray (7th)
2015: Trey Lyles (12th), Olivier Hanlan (42nd)
2014: Andrew Wiggins (1st), Nik Stauskas (8th), Tyler Ennis (18th), Dwight Powell (45th)
2013: Anthony Bennett (1st), Kelly Olynyk (13th)
2012: Andrew Nicholson (19th), Kris Joseph (51st), Robert Sacre (60th)
2011: Tristan Thompson (4th), Cory Joseph (29th)
2010: Andy Rautins (38th)