Vaught's Views: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's versatility could make him a superstar
Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, right, has impressed coach John Calipari and others with his overall play. ¿His motor never stops and if he is your teammate, you love that,¿ said former UK basketball standout Mike Pratt. (Victoria Graff)
Start with Kentucky coach John Calipari, who probably knew better than anyone how good Kidd-Gilchrist was when he came to UK. He likes the physical way Kidd-Gilchrist plays so much that he inserted him into the starting lineup over senior Darius Miller after one game and has not changed. Calipari aslo emphasized after last week’s loss at Indiana that there was no doubt Kidd-Gilchrist was UK’s best player, a fact North Carolina star Harrison Barnes likely would not dispute after being outplayed two weeks ago by Kidd-Gilchrist.
“Kidd-Gilchrist has been the quiet member of the vaunted UK freshman class, not getting as much pub as Anthony Davis or even point guard Marquis Teague. But Kidd-Gilchrist might be the one who has the best chance to become a superstar because of all the things he can do,” said ESPN college basketball writer Andy Katz.
Another ESPN analyst, Dick Vitale, is a Kidd-Gilchrist fan, too.
“How can you not like the way the kid plays? He plays with so much heart and passion,” Vitale said.
That’s what UK¿Radio Network analyst Mike Pratt, a former Kentucky standout himself, likes about Kidd-Gilchrist, too.
“I like his motor. It is alawys running full speed,” Pratt said.
What else stands out after watching him play nine games?
“He is a better ballhandler than I¿thought he would be,” Pratt said. “Defensively, he can guard five spots, and that’s a real plus. He struggles without his outside shot, but he can develop that. His ability to run the floor, ability to handle the ball and his super defensive skills make him a very, very special player.”
That has made Kidd-Gilchrist not only a fan favorite, but also a media favorite, even though he admits he was more than just a bit shy when he got to Kentucky.
“The media stuff is going better. I am kind of nervous still at times to tell the truth. You see how big Rupp (Arena) is. That’s enough to make anybody nervous and there are so many media,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I¿can’t even explain to folks back hom how it is here. It’s very unique. The fan base is excellent, but I¿can’t tell people back home just what it is like.
“The attention is starting to get to be fun. The limelight is something I am not quite sure I’ll ever adjust to. If you go out, everybody knows you. I really don’t like that a lot, but I have to get used to it. That’s the way it has to be. I really am not into all that fame and stuff. I’m just an ordinary guy.”
Ordinary? Try extraordinary on the basketball court. He can slash inside and overpower defenders. He rebounds. He runs the court. He can make outside shots. And he never seems to give less than his best.
Can he be better by March when NCAA tournament play begins?
“The place he is going to get better is in his consistency and outside shot,” Pratt said. “Those are the two areas where he could be better in March. It might be next year before that shot gets a lot better, but that big motor is always going to be there.”
Of course, there’s no guarantee he’ll still be at Kentucky next year. Already he’s projected as a lottery pick in the 2012 draft and his attitude certainly won’t hurt his stock.
“On the court, a whole new side of me just comes out. I¿am just ready to win all the time,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I like to think I¿am just a winner. I won’t give up anything in life. That’s what I want to be known as because that’s how I am.”
Pratt says that attitude has to make him popular with teammates.
“If he is your teammate, you love him. If you are a fan, you have got to love him because your are always going to get your money’s worth watching him play. He just never slows down,” Pratt said.