LOUISVILLE — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Derrick Gordon spent their junior years at Elizabeth, New Jersey's fabled St. Patrick's High working up a shared plan.
What if best friends and lifelong teammates got to play against each other as college basketball players?
"We talked about this our junior season," Western Kentucky's Gordon said Thursday. "We always talked about playing in the regular season, but this is even better playing in the NCAA Tournament."
When overall No. 1 seed Kentucky plays 16th-seeded Western, one of the primary story lines will focus on competitors who have known each other since they were 8-year-olds playing AAU hoops.
Both the 6-foot-7 Kidd-Gilchrist and the 6-2 Gordon use the same word to describe their relationship.
Gordon "is like my brother," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "That's it. He's like my brother in life."
Said Gordon: "Basically, he's my brother."
Just one season ago, Kidd-Gilchrist and Gordon combined at St. Patrick's on one of the best high school basketball teams in the country. The two were one final game from leading their school to an undefeated season when they lost to another New Jersey powerhouse, St. Anthony's, in a mythical national title game.
That quest for an undefeated year was chronicled in the HBO documentary Prayer for a Perfect Season.
Though the two friends ultimately chose to play college hoops in the same state, they have not had the chance to spend time together in person.
"I haven't seen him since I graduated," Gordon said. "It's definitely going to be real good to see him tomorrow."
The two New Jersey imports have each been part of compelling basketball stories in Kentucky this year.
Kidd-Gilchrist (11.8 points, 7.6 rebounds) has earned some All-America recognition while helping UK to a 32-2 record. He's also become a UK fan favorite with his relentless play.
Gordon leads Western (16-18) in both scoring and rebounding (11.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg). His attacking style has been a big part of WKU's seven-game winning streak that has included four victories in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and Monday's miracle rally from 16 down in the final five minutes to beat Mississippi Valley State in the 2012 NCAA Tournament opener.
So the two buddies who used to dream about playing against each other in college will now do that on college basketball's biggest stage.
Gordon said he will primarily guard UK's Doron Lamb but "I will be guarding (Kidd-Gilchrist) some."
Both acknowledge that they know the other's game intimately. But Kidd-Gilchrist said he may have a surprise for his buddy.
"I've got a little something up my sleeve he doesn't know I can do," Kidd-Gilchrist said.
Said Gordon: "I guess we'll see, won't we?"
Whatever happens in the basketball game, one thing won't change.
Said Gordon: "I want this game so bad. But (when it's over), we're life brothers."
Added Kidd-Gilchrist: "I would do anything for him, anything."
Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com