UK basketball signee Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 21 points for Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) in a 72-62 loss to Prolific Prep (Calif.) at the Marshall County Hoop Fest on Friday night.
After the game, Hamilton Heights Coach Zach Ferrell talked to the Herald-Leader about Alexander, a four-star guard from Canada who transferred to the Tennessee high school last year and committed to the Wildcats a few weeks ago.
How do you fell like Shai has played through the first few games of the season?
“I think he’s been great. As he’s continued to grow over the past year, he’s just gotten more and more confident. He’s been great for us. Very aggressive. Very consistent, and he just keeps getting better every game.”
Have you noticed any change in him since he made that commitment to UK?
“Over the last year, he’s really just grown — his confidence level. I think that (UK commitment) helps, for sure, that others have solidified that he’s on that level. But he’s really the same kind of kid. He works hard regardless of what his circumstances are.”
What does he need to improve on this season?
“Just continue to improve his overall game. Becoming a more consistent and better defender. Continue to work on his jump shot. And just getting better all around and being better at leading the team.”
How do you think he fits at UK?
“I think he’s going to be great. Coach Cal really knows how to work multiple guards — with what they have in the recruiting class and how it’s going to end up. Shai’s the kind of kid who is going to do exactly what you ask him to, work hard, and just develop in whatever areas that he’s challenged in. I think he’ll have a lot of success.”
People seem to have different opinions as to whether he’s a point guard or shooting guard. What do you think?
“My opinion is he’s a point guard. Period.”
Why? What does he bring to the table as appoint guard?
“He’s great with the ball in his hands. His composure is unbelievable. He’s a great decision maker. He loves to share the ball. He limits turnovers, and he’s great at making plays and finding other people.”
He’s originally from Canada, obviously. What led him down here last year?
“Really, just the opportunity to play against better competition and to just develop his game against American high school basketball players. He’s a kid that people saw potential in. And then he just attacked every day, got himself better, and he’s really just been on a rocket ship of improvement.”
Other than his confidence, how else has he grown over the past year?
“Before he came, he was very much pass-only. Not even pass-first, but pass-only. And through us, he’s really been able to gain a confidence in his offensive game and his ability to score and take shots. And then add that to his ability to facilitate. I think that’s what’s been really able to raise his confidence.”
What is his potential as a defender with a frame like he has (6-5 with a 6-10 ½ wingspan)?
“It’s fantastic. It’s just the mentality for him. And that’s one thing that he’ll really improve in, especially when he gets to Kentucky. That mentality of every possession, every day, being an elite defender. He’s improving there, and I think he’ll continue to. … You’ll see him improve. They’re probably going to play him off the ball a good bit with Quade (Green) coming in, and that will help him improve that other side of his game. He’s got fantastic potential, and he’s the kind of kid that doesn’t let the noise get to him. He just goes about his business and does his best every game.”
How do you think that dynamic will work — Shai and Quade?
“My confidence is in Coach Cal. Last year, they go with (Jamal) Murray, (Isaiah) Briscoe and (Tyler) Ulis — those are all three ball-dominant point guards coming out of high school. They all played together. Cal’s been doing this for a long time. I think he’ll be just fine making it work.”