Working Toward The Spotlight
Catching up with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as he prepares for the NBA Draft.
“What happens when you get up a lot of shots, and a lot of reps like we are, whatever you’re lacking is going to come naturally because you’re doing it just so much. So we’re working on the mid-range shot, and flirting some with the threes too. If people are going to back off him, and see if he can shoot it, we’re making sure he’s ready for that.”
On Tuesday last week, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s former teammate at St. Patrick’s High School in New Jersey was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. The presentation took place just down the street from where he was working out. Before making his way into the weight room with Coach Purtor, I asked MKG if Kyrie Irving had offered him any advice heading into this NBA Draft process.
“That’s my best friend,” Kidd-Gilchrist said of last year’s No. 1 overall pick. “I talked with him earlier today actually, and he just told me that the NBA is a man’s League. He said to just take my time with everything, off the court and on the court stuff, and just take my time in general. But most importantly, he just said to continue to keep working hard.”
As a Cleveland native, I asked if he hoped to be reunited with his friend and former teammate on the next level.
“Of course, I’d love to play with Kyrie,” Kidd-Gilchrist told SLAMonline. “But at the same time, I’m going into my own professional career and I’d be happy to play with any team that drafts me. I’m looking forward to being a part of an organization that believes in me, and I’m working hard to be able to bring an impact and positive light to that organization.”
On June 28 we’ll find out which organization will provide MKG that opportunity. He will then become a millionaire many times over, and his days of sliding in under the radar to places like this anywhere in the country will come to an end. I asked if he thought about that at all, as we looked around the gym.
“That didn’t hit me yet until you said it,” he replied. “At Kentucky, it’s like that already. But as far as that happening over here, or somewhere else, that didn’t hit me yet.”
The idea behind the Kentucky product preparing for the Draft in Cleveland was in part to give him a chance for relative anonymity while he trained. The thought being that a change of scenery, free from the national championship fanfare, would help keep a singular focus on the task at hand. But the other reason he chose Cleveland, says Kidd-Gilchrist, was to be close to his CAA advisor Rich Paul.
“Rich has been helping me a lot in this process, with everything really, and I wanted to be here with him while I trained,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.
Paul is the CAA advisor for Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson as well, and spent this past season in Cleveland.
“He’s my mentor, and it’s been good to be out here in Cleveland with him because we’re all family.”
As we talked, Beachwood High School’s head basketball coach Jason Pecjak brought the same little guy Michael had pointed out to me earlier over to meet the basketball megastar. Or actually, he brought the junior high player over so the basketball megastar could meet him.
Kidd-Gilchrist introduced himself to the 11-year-old baller, along with his mother, and told him he was looking good out there handling the basketball. The little guy, along with his mom, were beaming in response. They wished MKG luck, and said they hoped he’d end up in Cleveland with the Cavaliers.
It was hard for me not to feel the same way, and Coach Pecjak agreed.
“It’s been great having him here,” Pecjak said of MKG, as he walked away into the weight room for the strength-training portion of his workout. “He just has that innate motivation to be great.
“Beyond the basketball aspects, he really is just a good person too. He’s been interacting with all our guys the whole time, and in the short time I’ve gotten to know him, I really think that’s what’s going to take him to a level most guys don’t get to.”
To spend a couple hours talking with MKG, it seems he’s oblivious to all he’s accomplished already. To watch him work, it also seems the sky is his only limit as that career continues.
“I’m getting a lot stronger on and off the court, and I’m just growing up too in this process,” Kidd-Gilchrist said as his workout concluded. “I’ve always been a leader all my life, that’s just me. I’m just always looking to make an impact.”
He’ll make that impact soon on the next level, for whichever team is lucky enough to draft Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The team that does will win big because of it too, just like MKG has his whole life. Anywhere and everywhere he’s been.