For the first time in his nine-year career at Kentucky, John Calipari's least heralded prospect in a given recruiting class wound up being his most important player.
Of course, let's remember that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the player at hand, was also a four-star prospect respectably ranked 31st in the country upon graduating high school. That's still very high-level skill. Nevertheless, Gilgeous-Alexander's unexpectedly strong freshman season brought him to a decision that a majority of Kentucky players are faced with, yet few thought he'd be making as recently as two months ago.
Gilgeous-Alexander announced Monday night that he's off to the NBA after one season with Big Blue Nation. The 19-year-old from Hamilton, Canada, averaged 14.4 points, 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 37 games. At approximately 6-foot-6, he's exceptionally tall for a point guard prospect. He's an intriguing first-round choice, no question about it.
Gilgeous-Alexander went from long-term potential to short-term necessity in a hurry for Kentucky last season. He wound up being the most consistently reliable player for Calipari -- and it wasn't all that close -- while running the point. Not only did Gilgeous-Alexander play more minutes (84 percent) than anyone at Kentucky, he also had the highest usage percentage of all Wildcats.
Kentucky's had three players make their draft declarations at this point. Gilgeous-Alexander follows fellow frosh P.J. Washington, who has declared but not hired an agent, while potential lottery pick Kevin Knox . Our Gary Parrish has Gilgeous-Alexander , just a few spots behind Knox.
There's still much to be decided in Lexington, Kentucky. Other Kentucky guys still mulling their options: Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, Nick Richards and Wenyen Gabriel. Earlier on Monday, former five-star prospect and McDonald's All-American Sacha Killeya-Jones , presumably to transfer to another school.