By LARRY VAUGHT
Virginia Tech freshman guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker spent the last two seasons at Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) rooming with his cousin, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, where they played basketball together.
Saturday they will play against each other when Kentucky and Gilgeous-Alexander hosts Virginia Tech.
“He and I have a strong relationship,” Alexander-Walker said on a teleconference Wednesday previewing the game. “He’s like a brother to me.”
He said they talk often and Gilgeous-Alexander said before the season even started that he was already looking forward to this game. The two were in the same backcourt the last two years and played well together.
“I wouldn’t even call them cousins (although) I know they are. They’re more Irish twins,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said.
They are both from Canada and lived about 40 miles apart but often spent time together playing basketball and doing other things.
“Every weekend I was either at his house or he was at my house,” Walker-Alexander said. “Every day in summer we were together practicing and doing things we love to do together.”
At Hamilton Heights, they lived in coach Zach Ferrell’s house. This year Shai’s younger brother is playing for the coach and living there.
Gilgeous-Alexander gave a verbal commitment to Florida as a junior before changing his mind and eventually committing to Kentucky. Walker-Alexander had several scholarship offers but picked Virginia Tech as a junior and stuck with that choice.
Alexander-Walker is Virginia Tech’s third-leading scorer this season at 14.4 points per game. Gilgeous-Alexander averages 10.1 points per game for UK and leads the team with 21 steals.
The two often played one-on-one games growing up.
“I hated losing to him and he hated losing to me,” Alexander-Walker said on the teleconference. “I’m going to try to talk some trash to him a little bit, have some with it.”
Alexander-Walker was his cousin’s biggest fan in high school but admits Saturday will be a little “weird” for him.
“I feel like I’m playing myself,” Alexander-Walker said.