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.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has endured his share of heartbreak, but nothing seems to slow him down for long.
Not the shooting death of his father, Michael Gilchrist Sr., when he was 2. Not the death of his uncle, Darrin Kidd, from a heart attack on the day Kidd-Gilchrist signed his Letter of Intent last year with Kentucky. And not the recent hospitalization of his mother, Cindy Richardson, for an undisclosed illness.
Through it all, Kidd-Gilchrist’s big heart just keeps pumping faster and faster, stronger and stronger.
“I play my heart out,” the 6-foot-7 Kidd-Gilchrist said after putting up 24 points and 19 rebounds as No. 3 Kentucky fended off No. 4 Louisville, 69-62, Saturday at Rupp Arena. “That’s what I give, my heart.”
Kidd-Gilchrist is a shy kid who is especially close to his mother after all that they’ve been through. Thus, her presence at Rupp Saturday after being released from the hospital triggered an even deeper emotional response.
“It’s very hard to see my mother there,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I was crying my eyes out that night [she was in the hospital], but she fought through it.”
His latest performance has caused his stock to jump with NBA Draft experts.
Chad Ford now has him listed as No. 7 on his Big Board, while Jonathan Givony jumped Kidd-Gilchrist to No. 8.
(I wrote my column on the Top 10 American prospects for Sheridan Hoops this morning, prior to Kidd-Gilchrist’s latest outing. Otherwise, he’d be in the Top 10.)
The truth is, nobody knows just how good this kid can be.
I’ve covered him since he first arrived at Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick High School, and one thing’s for sure: his motor never stops and he’s got an unquenchable thirst for winning.
Unlike some players, perhaps even some of his teammates, he never takes possessions off.
A year ago, New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski called him the best high school player in America — better even than current Duke guard Austin Rivers.
“Austin Rivers is the transcendent talent in the Class of 2011,” Konchalski said in March, after St. Patrick lost the mythical national championship game to St. Anthony. “But I think Michael Gilchrist is the best high school player. He plays every possession. He plays for the name on the front of the jersey.”
Kidd-Gilchrist still calls that disappointing loss to St. Anthony the biggest game of his life.
It still sticks in his craw that he struggled in that game — managing just seven points on 2 of 11 shooting against a Bob Hurley-engineered defense.
Still, he generally seems to thrive under the spotlight.
Against North Carolina earlier this year, he had 17 points and 11 boards in Kentucky’s 73-72 victory.
And now, even as a freshman, he’s taken on a leadership role at Kentucky with his 8:30 a.m. Breakfast Club outings for weights and shooting.
“The guys that continue to do those extra things, the extra work, it’s amazing,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said Saturday. “You get what you deserve in life and basketball. You do.”
While Anthony Davis is the most tantalizing NBA prospect on Calipari’s team, and Terrence Jones has the talent to be a pro for 10 years, nobody on the Kentucky team — perhaps nobody in the nation — is playing better than Kidd-Gilchrist at this very moment.
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.