Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is used to defying expectations.
As a recruit, the Canadian hooper earned “just” four stars – a bit of a rarity for a Kentucky basketball commit in the one-and-done era. He was the second-lowest ranked player in UK’s 2017 recruiting class. At No. 35, he came in behind Kevin Knox (No. 10), PJ Washington (No. 12), Nick Richards (No. 17), Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 19) and Quade Green (No. 24). He was ahead of Jermarl Baker (No. 66).
He started his collegiate career as a reserve player, serving as the backup for the team’s starting point guard, Quade Green. But as the season progressed, Gilgeous-Alexander became known as the team’s gym rat – Coach Cal often credited him with spending early mornings and late nights getting up shots in the gym.
Before long, it was December, and the Kentucky-Louisville game was upon us. Gilgeous-Alexander’s 24 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals helped the Wildcats secure a historic 90-61 victory over their in-state rivals.
By the time Kentucky began SEC play, Gilgeous-Alexander had already started his transformation into UK’s most-consistent threat. By the time March Madness rolled around, he’d found his groove. Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 20.7 points, 6.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game throughout the postseason. He was named Most Valuable Player of the SEC Tournament after a 29-point performance against Tennessee; he flirted with a triple-double in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
His hard work paid off on NBA Draft night, when he was selected as the No. 11 overall pick.
As of today, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is 22 years old. He’s just beginning to make his mark on the NBA.
Future is bright in OKC for Shai, who turns 22 today.
SGA recorded his first triple-double at the beginning of the season with 20 PTS, 20 REBS and 10 ASTS ?
One of the most underrated young stars in the league. pic.twitter.com/nubZfL1t8I
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 12, 2020
With the Thunder this season, Gilgeous-Alexander was averaging 19.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steal per outing. He saw an average of 35.1 minutes per game before the season was suspended in March. He was shooting just over 47 percent from the floor, 35 percent from the three-point line and 80 percent from the charity stripe. At just 21 years of age, SGA was leading his playoff-ready NBA team in points per game. The bar has certainly been set for year No. 22.
Off the court, SGA has signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Converse, earned LeagueFits’ MVP award for his fashion choices, and gone viral thanks to some friendly trash talking with his Oklahoma City teammates in Orlando.
Cornhole gets pretty intense in the bubble:
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) July 10, 2020
The future is bright for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Here’s to another year of defying expectations.