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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Saturday / December 16.
  • Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Impressing NBA Scouts, Coaching Staff

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    For the second time in three years, a Canadian at Kentucky is impressing NBA scouts.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the 6-foot-6 freshman guard from Hamilton, Ontario, is impressing his coaches and NBA scouts in his first few weeks of practices.

    NBA scouts like his size, length, scoring ability, ability to get in the lane, his shooting stroke and his defensive abilities. He has a 6-foot-11 wing span.

    “He played well [at the Kentucky Combine],” one NBA scout said. “He will get plenty of run at the wing and the point.”

    Two years after fellow Canadian Jamal Murray went as a lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft out of Kentucky, Alexander will get some love from NBA mocks this season. He’s currently projected at No. 13 by NBADraft.net.

    “Shai is not like a pure [point guard],” Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters, adding that he wants him to use his peripheral vision more. “Shai can run the point. He’s good, but he’s more of a ‘I’m going to try to get some baskets. I’m going to break this off’ … He’s not to the level of Quade [Green]. But here’s this kid: 6-5. He’s long. He can go get baskets. He’s got kind of an old man’s game.”

    Gilgeous-Alexander knows Murray through their Canadian ties and watched as he went from a prep school in Canada to Kentucky to the NBA Draft lottery.

    “He’s good,” Gilgeous-Alexander told Kentucky.com of Murray. “He’s really good. There’s just some things in his game that are really special. And he really fit well here, and he got to where he wanted to go, and it was special to watch.”

    After initially committing to Florida out of Hamilton Heights (TN), he decommitted and then chose Kentucky last November after also considering UNLV, Texas and Syracuse.

    Now he’s part of a deep, but young, backcourt that also includes fellow freshman Quade Green at the point, freshman shooter Jermarl Baker and sophomore Hamidou Diallo, who returned to campus this year after not playing last spring.

    “He can do it all,” Baker said of Gilgeous-Alexander. “He can pass. He’s super long, steals, disruptive on defense, and athletic too. I honestly didn’t know much about him or anybody too much before I got here, but I saw him play, and they were really good.”

    Alexander is not the most talkative guy in the world, so Green and Diallo are handling more of the leadership responsibilities.

    As for his on-court game, he wants to continue to develop his shot.

    “I am trying to get my jump shot off faster and get it more consistent,” he said. “Continue to build strength and athleticism.”

    And if he does, Kentucky fans could hear another Canadian name called in the NBA Draft next June.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.