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:
BUY or SELL: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the biggest surprise of a recruit in the Calipari era.
— Sam Gormley (@GormleyKSR) March 17, 2018
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.