Gilchrist not ready to choose

But top-rated junior has strong ties to 'Uncle Wes'

jtipton@herald-leader.comJuly 8, 2009 

CLEVELAND — People jump — with Jordan-esque evaluation — to conclusions when mega-prospect Michael Gilchrist refers to his "Uncle Wes."

That is the same William Wesley who has gained a reputation as an influential personality in college basketball recruiting. He's been associated with several top prospects, including a trio of stars who played for John Calipari at Memphis: Dajuan Wagner, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans.

So ties to Uncle Wes led to a widespread belief that Gilchrist's commitment to Kentucky, Calipari's new school, is a done deal.

Except Gilchrist, the No. 1 rated junior-to-be in the country and arguably the best player in any high school class, says it's not true.

"I'm not a done deal for Kentucky," he said after playing in the Nike-sponsored King City Classic on Wednesday. "I'm still open to all my options, so I'm not a done deal."

Wesley was in attendance. The player's mother, Cynthia Richardson, acknowledged a fondness for Wesley that dates back to when they grew up across the street from each other in Camden, N.J.

"Friends for life," she said. "He's a brother."

She meant that figuratively. And Richardson balked at the idea of Wesley being her son's basketball Svengali.

"Michael has a mother and a father that make decisions for their son," she said. "That's it.

"Uncle Wes doesn't make decisions for the family. I have a strong husband."

Gilchrist mentioned several schools he's willing to consider: Villanova, Louisiana, Memphis, Syracuse, Indiana. "Who else?" he thought aloud. North Carolina. North Carolina State. "Many," he said.

His coach at St. Patrick's High in New Jersey, Kevin Boyle, said Gilchrist was open to options. For instance, Gilchrist will play on a summer team with the sons of Villanova Coach Jay Wright. Plus, Villanova is close to home.

Georgetown and Florida have shown interest in Gilchrist, a multi-skilled 6-foot-6 wing whose tireless zeal wows evaluators.

"I work harder than anybody, to tell you the truth," Gilchrist said in explaining the effort he expends. "... I just want to make it. I can't be lazy."

Gilchrist has been on the recruiting radar since he committed to play for St. Patrick's, a New Jersey powerhouse, at age 13. At the same time, he said he wanted to play for Calipari at Memphis.

It's a comment he clearly regrets. And it makes him reticent in interview sessions.

"I'm only 15," he said. "I don't get into all the hype. I just want to be a kid."

The hype "gets on my nerves sometimes," he said before adding, "I can't do anything about it."

Gilchrist made one admission. He likes to draw. "I'm an artist, really," he said. But follow-up questions produced little elaboration.

Boyle saluted Wesley for the influence he wields.

"He's been very supportive of the team (and) the coach," the St. Patrick's coach said. "Some guys want to give you advice by telling you how good you are and the coach is wrong.

"He's great for Michael."

Boyle said that if Gilchrist complains about something, Wesley's advice is, "work harder and do what the coach says."

Gilchrist played well here on Wednesday. In one memorable sequence, he fell awkwardly to the floor holding a knee. A hush came over Cleveland State's Wolstein Center.

After getting up, Gilchrist took an inbounds pass and zipped a one-hand dunk through the hoop.

One of his St. Patrick's teammates, senior-to-be Kyrie Irving, is playing with Gilchrist at this camp. Irving said Gilchrist tries to ignore the hype.

"He wants to be a normal kid," Irving said. "If you lose your sense of being a kid, it turns into a business. Once it's a business, it's not fun anymore."

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