NEW YORK — Former Kentucky player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has two primary goals going into Thursday night's NBA Draft and beyond.
"Stay focused on my game," he said Wednesday, "and my speech impediment."
During his one season at UK, neither Kidd-Gilchrist nor reporters brought up the subject of a problem with speech. But long pauses in responses, sometimes with the player's lower lip quivering, could not be missed. He also seemed to take comfort in holding an object in his hands while talking with the media. So no surprise that he held a water bottle as he talked with reporters here to cover the NBA Draft.
"It was my life," Kidd-Gilchrist said of what he called a speech impediment. "It's me. I can deal with it."
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As the UK season unfolded and Kidd-Gilchrist became familiar with reporters, the pauses grew shorter. He seemed to relax and even banter with the media.
When a reporter mentioned how well he interacted with the media at the NBA Combine earlier in the month and then again Wednesday, Kidd-Gilchrist cited how repetition makes a difference.
"It's just confidence with me," he said. "That's it."
In Wednesday's 30-minute interview session in a midtown hotel, Kidd-Gilchrist:
■ Jokingly said he was the best-dressed person in the group. While not a grand achievement in a room of media, he looked natty in a bright gray sports coat, light blue dress shirt and Kentucky blue tie. A small gray rose smartly sat on a lapel.
"I have good taste," he said.
Kidd-Gilchrist promised to wear something even more stylish at the draft.
■ Looked forward to getting drafted in Newark, which is only a few miles from his Somerdale, N.J., hometown.
"It'll be an emotional feeling for me," he said.
Kidd-Gilchrist said he would have more than 100 family and friends attending the draft.
"A family affair," he called it.
■ Said he hoped to wear No. 31 in the NBA.
"Because it's my dad's number," he said.
Kidd-Gilchrist wore No. 14 at UK. That was an uncle's number.
■ Set a high standard for himself.
"I want to be the best there is to play this game," he said.
While noting how he liked the way Dwyane Wade played, Kidd-Gilchrist added, "I want to be one of a kind."
■ Lamented the pre-draft process that includes working out for individual teams.
"Lots of traveling and all that," he said. "And the media stuff. I don't like that at all, but I've got to do it."
■ Acknowledged an anxiousness to learn his basketball fate.
"I don't know where I'm going to go," he said, "and I want to know now."
On Tuesday, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas dismissed the notion that college coaches develop players for the NBA. But Kidd-Gilchrist said UK Coach John Calipari played a significant role in developing players.
"I mean, a lot," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "Every day in practice, he pushes us. Night. Day. Morning."
Calipari also is readily available any time to talk a player through problems, Kidd-Gilchrist said.
"I think he'll be a Hall of Fame coach when all is said and done," the player said.
If six former UK players are drafted Thursday, that will increase the number to 15 in Calipari's three seasons as coach.
At the NBA Combine in Chicago earlier this month, Anthony Davis wore a T-shirt reading "Check my stats." This prompted Thomas Robinson of Kansas to suggest his superior statistics should make him the draft's first pick.
Robinson declined to say if he seriously took exception to Davis as the consensus No. 1 pick.
The subject raised Wednesday did not bring a smile to Robinson's face. A reporter noted the lack of levity.
"If you think I was serious, I was serious," he said. "If you think I was kidding, I was kidding."
When asked his reaction to Robinson's comments at the Combine, Davis said, "I'm not sure how that came about. I have no reaction to it."
Davis saluted UK fans as unique.
"No fans are like Kentucky fans," he said. " ... If you haven't seen Kentucky fans, you don't know what crazy fans are. It's something you have to prepare for."