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By LARRY VAUGHT
He knows Kentucky had a record five players taken in the first round of last weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s NBA draft. However, Michael Gilchrist, a 6-6 forward from Philadelphia ranked as the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top senior-to-be, says his verbal commitment to Kentucky has nothing to do with the NBA.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am trying to win a national championship, not go to the NBA,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Gilchrist. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am going to work as hard as possible to win a national championship. That chance to win the title is what drew me to Kentucky.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I talk to coach (John) Calipari all the time. He is special. There is just something about him that you have to like. But the NBA is not really a concern of mine. I want to win a national championship. What Cal does getting guys ready for the NBA really is not why I am coming to Kentucky.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Gilchrist playing with the USA Under-18 team, even though he arrived a few days late for practice.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I had the chicken pox and the doctor wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let me come,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gilchrist said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I never thought about getting something like that. All I could do was wait to get better. I am fine now.Ã¢â‚¬Â
He played only 15 minutes and was 0-for-2 from the field in SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 95-82 loss to the Russia Under-18 team in an exhibition game in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Gilchrist, who plays for St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., has an uncanny ability to create shots for himself and is regarded as one of the most intense competitors in his recruiting class. He admits he needs some work on his perimeter shot, but he compensates with his ability to slash to the basket and in transition. He has also shown the ability to guard anyone from a point guard to power forward.
Gilchrist was named the outstanding prospect at the NBA Players Associations Top 100 Camp.
Now heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s trying to help persuade other players to come to Kentucky like Indianapolis point guard Marquis Teague, another UK verbal commitment who is ranked as the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s No. 1 player at his position. He was 5-for-12 from the field Sunday and had 12 points, three assists and one steal in 17 minutes.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I feel very good about my decision to come to Kentucky and I hope maybe I have helped influence other players to want to come to Kentucky because I want to play with the best players,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gilchrist said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I talk to guys on this team about playing at Kentucky. I just like to play and have fun, but I have known coach Cal a long time and I know itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to say no to him when heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recruiting you. I am looking forward to playing for him and I want other guys to feel the same way.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Teague committed to UK shortly after Gilchrist did.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Marquis is my best friend. He can do everything on the basketball court,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gilchrist said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Everything he does on the court is good. I think I am versatile and can do a lot, too. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why we team together so well.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Gilchrist says his game really is not comparable to any of the five UK players that were first-round draft picks last week.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am similar to me and no one else,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think my game is really like any one player.Ã¢â‚¬Â
However, he does know that he wants to regain his stamina and help this team win a gold medal in the international competition.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be a huge honor to win a gold medal,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gilchrist said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even know how to explain what it would mean. Playing in the Olympics has always been a dream and hopefully the experience I get on this team will help me reach that goal one day.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I really like all these guys I am playing with. I like everybody Ã¢â‚¬â€ Tony Wroten, James McAdoo, Quinn Cook, Johnny OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Bryant. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nice to be playing with guys like this. It kind of shows me what college basketball will be like.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Gilchrist says despite all the national media hype he has receiver, it is not hard for him to stay level headed.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I come from a humble family. My mom and dad made sure I stayed humble,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“My parents have had a big influence on me. My dad passed away, so I play to honor him as well as my mom. I am very close to her, but I also always want to honor him. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why I want to win and be the best I can be all the time.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Gilchrist isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sure if he will sign with Kentucky in November or wait until after his high school season ends just to keep all his options open.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am not really hearing from a lot of other coaches since IÃ‚Â committed to Kentucky. I am solid for Kentucky, but I am just not sure that I will sign early. I might just wait because it really doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hurt anything for me to do that,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.