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Is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the Biggest Surprise of the Calipari era?

Not counting walk-ons, John Calipari has brought in 53 players to Kentucky since arriving to Lexington in 2009. 30 of those players have been named McDonalds All-Americans. One player that wasn’t? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Wildcat freshman is averaging 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. In the SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament so far, Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 21.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists.

It is no secret that he has become one of the most important players on the team. The fact is, other than Jemarl Baker, he was the lowest rated recruit of the 8 total players Calipari brought in the season. This led me to ask the following question on Twitter last night:

Sure, everyone’s definition of a surprise might be different, but did you expect SGA to put up the numbers he has? That alone makes me say that he is, in fact, the biggest surprise of the Calipari era.

I posed the question to those that disagreed to name a player who was a bigger surprise. One person said Tyler Ulis.

Ulis is an interesting case. Was he necessarily a surprise? Or was his “surprise” based on people being stunned that someone with his size could have the talent he did?

Ulis was also rated as the #4 Point Guard in his class, was a five-star recruit, and was a McDonalds All-American. Gilgeous-Alexander was the #8 point guard, a four-star and wasn’t a McDonalds All-American.

Shai has been a critical part of this team’s success this season. Like the team said last night, whenever they need a big shot, he makes it. No one expected him to start on this year’s team. In fact, if you ask most fans they would tell you that he would be the man on next season’s team. Instead, Gilgeous-Alexander has played himself into a possible lottery pick. Has there been another player that fits that mold? I can’t think of one.

I now ask you the same question, is Shai the biggest surprise of a recruit in the Calipari era? If not, who is? Comment below or send me a tweet @GormleyKSR.

Article written by Sam Gormley

Follow me on Twitter @GormleyKSR; "The Whitest Man in the World"-JRock

23 Comments for Is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the Biggest Surprise of the Calipari era?

  1. henderblue
    6:01 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink


  2. Mc12
    6:09 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    Interesting question lol

  3. Rembrandt
    6:10 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    To answer Mr. Gormley’s question, Tyler Ulis was easily the biggest surprise of the Cal era at UK. But Gilgeous Alexander, Bledsoe, and Booker are certainly next in line in that discussion.

    • Bull Filmer
      6:40 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

      Without question, SGA is the man. He is the reason. Without him KENTUCKY is problematic.

  4. Catsfan1715
    6:11 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    The biggest surprise for me listed in order of shock. 1. Devin Booker. Yes that team overshadowed some of his talent which didn’t exactly help us see his ability. But the fact that he went from 6th man on our team to nba superstar is shocking to me. He was what, 21?22? when he scored 70 points in a game? 2. Skal. His game didn’t translate at all really to the college game. He was okay, but his performance at UK was rather underwhelming. Him being drafted 1st round in the nba draft was really surprising to me and then to see him actually play and perform well in that league is shocking.

  5. Cmart0907
    6:25 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    People forget. Shai was committed to Florida i believe. I don’t know how Cal swooped in and got him. But I’m glad he did. We’re so use to top 5 and top 10 recruits. Shai was ranked like #31. I believe the recruiting services just tad bit overlooked him. If they was re-ranked easily be top 10. He was extremely turnover prone beginning of the year. I’m glad he grab the ropes and carries this team.

  6. Bleednblu
    6:32 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    I believe the question was referring to the biggest surprise while in a Kentucky uniform. All the guys mentioned have been surprising yes, however I honestly believe it’s a toss up between SGA and Ulis with SGA winning. As said before, Ulis was a top 5 point guard in his class as well as a McDonald’s All American. His stature sure put doubt in the minds of many fans including mine, but he had the background to support his 5* ranking. Shai was seen more as a backup guard coming in with the thought that he’d be a veteran guard for us in a year or so. His play along with his work ethic and attitude has provided a scenario that in itself is amazing and one we have rarely had the opportunity to see in the Calipari era. A player to come in rated lower and to evolve and progress into one of if not the most important pieces to this puzzle of a team we’ve had this year while surrounded by 5*s and All Americans. I for one am very proud of the season he’s had and the way he’s shown that you don’t have to be the top ranked recruit to be one of the top guys on a Blueblood team like our beloved Cats! Sorry for rambling lol, as always let’s keep the W’s coming and keep advancing. Next team up is the next team down! #BBN

    • henderblue
      6:45 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

      I agree. While I love Ulis and he was a great addition to that team, he didn’t mean as much to that team as Shei means to this team. I made the comment earlier in the year that we didn’t have an elite point guard this year. But it turns out we do.

    • Catsfan1715
      7:11 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

      Yeah if we limit it to the biggest surprise to contribute to our program then I would have to agree with you. Shai has worked his butt off. With his development and his physical talents he will be a top 10 pick and I believe will do well in the nba as well. If he gets even faster end to end and improves his passing/court vision he will be one of the better pg’s in the league.

  7. Cmart0907
    6:34 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    It’s because everybody had Quade Green locked up in their heads he was our next great starting point guard because he was ranked higher.

  8. Ridge Runner
    6:40 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    Josh Harrelson comes to mind but not sure what “Star” he was. 3? But hard to argue against Shai

    • Ridge Runner
      6:45 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

      Also, Jorts took longer than a year to come around which further pushes Shai ahead the more I think about it.

    • Sam Gormley
      6:51 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

      Harrellson was a Gillispie recruit, so he technically doesn’t count for this question. If we were talking recruits of the last 10-15 years, he’d have to be up there though.

    • Fake JT
      7:28 am March 19, 2018 Permalink

      I agree with Jory’s, his surprise came during the Calipari Era. I know Sam doesn’t count it and it’s his game so he can change the rules mid-game, but Jory’s was my original. If Jory’s is out, then my order is 1) SGA 2) Skal for being as disappointing in the UK uni. He is familia, and will love him forever, but my hopes for him were sooooooo high. My fault really.

  9. BigBlueNationDude
    6:42 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    I beleive so. Who woulda thought? Kid is solid. Briscoe and Richards are probably the biggest dissapointments

  10. Bull Filmer
    6:46 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    Without question, SGA is the man. He is the reason. Without him KENTUCKY is problematic.

  11. Bull Filmer
    6:48 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    I H A T E Norf Ker a LIE nuh.

    Can’t stand ROY and Bubba.

    Cheating MO FOs.


    GO T DAM baby blew.

  12. Graczyk
    6:53 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    I would say poythress I thought he was gunna come in and be a stud and be our best player that year and it just didn’t happen and then the injury. I love poythress but he was the biggest surprise.

    Booker or SGA Biggest surprise the other way tho

  13. runningunnin.454
    7:10 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    ACC my a$$…TA&M beating the crap out of UNCheat ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

  14. Aar
    8:49 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    I can’t think of a bigger positive surprise.

    I pondered Devin Booker for awhile but he “came out” more in the NBA than at UK – not to diminish his year in blue at all.

  15. rlburd2
    11:55 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    Ya mum surprises erybody on the weekends.

  16. FroggyFrog
    7:12 pm March 19, 2018 Permalink

    Shai is definitely one of the most surprising recruits i’ve seen explode under Cal, but an argument can be made for Willie Cauley-Stein. Similar to Shai, WIllie was one of the less heralded recruits in the 2012 class and ranked 11th overall at his position, compared to Shai at 8th. Willie was also a four star recruit like Shai.

    Additionally, Willie was listed at 6’10’ coming into UK. At UK, he became a 7-foot defensive monster. Frankly, Willie is arguably the greatest defensive force to play at UK. 1) Willie could guard all 5 positions at 7 foot and showcased it, none more memorable than his second half lockdown of Louisville’s Jones. Seeing a 7 footer play defense on the perimeter is something I havent seen much of, and Willie also used that to generate deflections and averaged a steal a game for his career. 2) Willie also turned into a fantastic rim protector who averaged 2 blocks a game for his career.

    Ive never seen a player rated as low as Willie turn into that kind of defensive power house. Note that he was the SEC defensive player of the year, national defensive player of the year, and 6th overall pick in the NBA draft. Because of all this, I think Willie is the most surprising Cal recruit I have seen.