M ich a el Gilchrist
Position: Small forward
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Hometown: Somerdale, N.J.
High school: St. Patrick
Rivals ranking: No. 3
Scout ranking: No. 5
ESPN Ranking: No. 3
MaxPreps ranking: No. 1
He's the one who started it all.
When Michael Gilchrist committed to Kentucky in a surprise news conference last April, the first piece of the puzzle was in place. Gilchrist had long been the unanimous No. 1 player in his class and, some said, the best player in all of high school basketball.
"In the 28-year history of The Hoop Scoop, there have been two players as sophomores I said were the best regardless of class," recruiting analyst Clark Francis said at the time. "The other is LeBron James."
A lofty comparison, to be sure.
Gilchrist slipped in most of those rankings over the course of his senior season, but no one denies his status as a major talent that will contribute right away as a freshman at UK.
It's also hard to deny his effect on what has become perhaps the most celebrated recruiting class since Michigan's Fab Five of 20 years ago.
Gilchrist's early commitment solidified John Calipari's status as a perennial recruiting force, and it signaled to his peers that UK was the place to be in 2011.
Top-ranked point guard Marquis Teague committed to the Cats less than two weeks later. By the end of August, future McDonald's All-Americans Anthony Davis and Kyle Wiltjer were on board. All three mentioned Gilchrist when asked about their decisions to come to Lexington.
It's not hard to see why.
"When you look up the definition of 'warrior' in the dictionary, there is a picture of Michael there," Calipari said when Gilchrist signed in November. "No one plays harder or is more competitive. He has a tremendous burning desire to win that will drive practice and elevate everyone within the program."
Gilchrist's hard work and team-first mentality had St. Patrick High School ranked No. 1 in the country for almost the entire season. He averaged 20.2 points and 11.0 rebounds, leading the Celtics to a 26-0 record before losing to undefeated St. Anthony in the New Jersey state tournament.
His team-first attitude will be put to the test this season while playing alongside five McDonald's All-Americans and returning senior Darius Miller. Gilchrist's ability to play multiple positions makes him a possible sixth-man option, a role that's not likely to bruise his ego.
"Gilchrist can change the game with his offense, his defense, his rebounding," ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi said in April. "He's just a coach's dream. He cares more about winning than statistics, and he plays 100 percent all the time."