As he got ready to leave the podium after announcing he was leaving Kentucky after his freshman year to play in the NBA, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stopped to give Kentucky coach John Calipari one more hug.
“I wanted to win this (national) title so much for him.¿He means everything to me,” said Kidd-Gilchrist Tuesday after himself and four other teammates — Anthony Davis, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague — all said they were going to the NBA. “He did so much for my to help my dream come true. But this is my dream. I am ready (for the NBA), I think. All the off the court (media) stuff here and other stuff prepared me for that part. Basketball-wise,¿I am ready to go. So it’s time.”
Kidd-Gilchrist was second on the team with seven double-doubles, including three against top-20 ranked teams, with the other three coming on the road. He ranked second on the team in rebounding (7.4), third in blocks (37) and steals (37), and fourth in scoring (11.9). He was also named an All-American by several sources.
Still, Kidd-Gilchrist had to convince his mother that even at age 18 he was ready to join the NBA where he’s projected as a top five to top eight pick in the June draft.
“She was happy, but she was also worried about me being so young. I¿had a heart-to-heart talk with her and just told her I was going,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “But this is my dream. She understood that. I didn’t want to wait any more, so I am going now. But I was really close, believe it or not, to coming back. I’m 18-years-old still. I was really close.”
He’s not sure if his mom will move to the city where he’ll be playing, but he said the first thing he would buy her would be a watch.
Why a watch?
“I don’t know. I am just saying stuff to say it,” he smiled and said. “I am just having fun like I did all year.”
He joked that he would miss “everything” about Kentucky, including the media.
“You guys (media) are everywhere. I’ll miss you,” he said. “But I will really miss all the fans. It was just the right time to go, but the fans are so special. And these guys right here (his teammates), man, they mean a lot to me — Darius Miller, too. I¿just want to thank them all. These guys right here in this gym, it was crazy. But I¿had a great time.
Kidd-Gilchrist became a fan favorite with his all-out intensity and hustle. He enjoyed defense as much as scoring. Calipari told him that NBA scouts questioned his perimeter shot, something he says he knows he can improve.
“It’s a lot of hard work here, but I¿am not complaining,” he said. “It was all worth it. I’ve got a high motor and that won’t change in the NBA. I¿only know one way to play.
“All my teammates here were great. I will get new teammates, but none like these guys. Or coach Cal. I love him. I really do. I wanted to win that title for him, but I wanted to win it for everybody at Kentucky. This place is great, but it is just my time to go.”
Calipari said Kidd-Gilchrist had multiple skills that appealed to NBA scouts.
“Defends, high motor, played multiple positions, can guard all five positions. The things that he does as a teammate, the same way, dragged practices, even in games would take over games with an emotion of how he played. His skill level has absolutely improved from the beginning to the end,” Calipari said.
Kidd-Gilchrist said he had no preference on where he would like to play — “whoever drafts me drafts me” — and that he has not yet hired an agent.
He’s not quite sure how he’ll feel about playing in the NBA.
“Happy and emotional at the same time. My dad’s not here (he was killed when Kidd-Gilchrist was a youngster) right now, so it’s hard for me. I’m just going to enjoy myself,” he said.
Kidd-Gilchrist admitted if UK¿had not won the national title, his decision might have been different.
“I think so, for all of us I think. But we won it, so I can’t argue with that,” he said.
UK Basketball: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was glad to win title for Calipari, says he is 'ready' for NBA
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