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Monday, March 9th, 2009 at 5:10 pm  |  19 responses

Remember This Name

I’ve seen the future. His name is Michael Gilchrist.

by Aggrey Sam

Michael Gilchrist.

I wrote a mini feature on him in SLAM 127 which you all should read, but I wanted to drop a few more thoughts on him. You’ll be hearing his name a lot over the next…20 years, if things work out the way I think they could. After all, he’s only 15 years old now. Don’t let his age fool you, though. He might be the best basketball player in this country who isn’t playing professionally or in college.

I don’t mean that in the way of, he scores the most points or is the most physically impressive, or even that he’s the most skilled. It’s his complete package, approach to the game, on-court demeanor and ridiculous potential that set him apart from the rest. Gilchrist might be the most versatile, if not best overall, defensive player in the high school ranks. Despite his skinny frame (he goes about 6-8, 205), he’s one of the better rebounders you’ll see, as well. He has a great feel for the game and is a unselfish, willing and capable passer. With his athleticism, slashing ability and surprising toughness, he’s also an excellent finisher. But when you see him run the floor, that’s when you’ll get the picture.

The kid simply doesn’t know the meaning of coast. He plays every possession like it’s a tie game in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and there are 10 seconds left. His facial expression hardly ever changes, whether the sophomore sensation is getting chewed out by his coach at St. Pat’s in North Jersey, Kevin Boyle, or he just pinned an opponent’s shot to the backboard. Notice I said hardly ever—because the kid certainly does smile a lot.

That’s what makes the kid special. He has that ear-to-ear, Magic Johnson, Hollywood, count-each-of-my-teeth smile that lets you know he’s still a 15-year-old kid just having fun. I see a lot of high school ball, and the worst part about it (and trust me, there are quite a few negatives) is seeing a kid, top prospect or not, look like they don’t enjoy themselves on the court. When I interviewed Michael (shout out to his wonderful mother, Cindy Richardson, and his stepfather, Vince, for the assistance), there was no prima donna in him, no media training, no bored-with-the-interview answers. Although I (and a whole lot of other people) have known since at least last summer, when he destroyed Bron’s camp in Akron and other events, how good he was already, at 14, Gilchrist and his fam were almost naive to the fact. And that’s a good thing. A shy, regular, down-to-earth, 15-year-old kid should act like a shy, regular, down-to-earth, 15 year-old kid, no matter what expectations are placed upon him.

With his Camden roots (what up, Juanny) and playing with and against top comp year-round, the other side of Gilchrist’s development is also worthy of pub. His late pop balled for Camden High in its heyday, during the Milt Wagner/Billy Thompson era, when the school was popping out high school All-Americans like Nadya Suleman pops out babies. Instead of continuing the South Jersey legacy, he chooses to Elizabeth to attend powerhouse St. Pat’s  (alma mater of Al Harrington and Samuel Dalembert, among others), which plays one of the top schedules locally and nationally you can find, to supplement the camps and tourneys he plays in during the summer.

About two weeks ago, Gilchrist suffered an injury in practice, which was originally diagnosed as a broken foot. He was supposed to be out for the season, but it ended up not being as serious as first thought. My (and E-I-C Ben Osborne’s) immediate reaction was that it was bad timing for the story, but also that he would deal with it better than most players, including those twice his age (I’m looking at you, Tracy). He’s just that type of kid. Now it’s looking like he’ll be playing as St. Pat’s chases a Jersey state title, so this story (the first of many he’ll have in SLAM, we imagine) should actually be timed perfectly.

michaelgilchristThe last time I saw Michael play in person was in Florida, right before Christmas in Fort Myers. He played against some big-time competition, and definitely put up numbers, but the thing that stuck out to me was his poise and humility. His team had a first-round bye in the tourney, so when they got to the gym on the event’s second day, a close game was in progress. St. Pat’s team is filled with kids full of that East Coast swag, so they started to walk in, completely unaware of their surroundings. Realizing that a key free throw was about to be shot, Gilchrist held back his entire squad from walking in the doors until after the shot went up. An hour or so later, he put up 30 and 14 in a win against top prospect John Wall’s Word of God squad, without the help of guards UNC signee Dexter Strickland (suspended for the game) and top 2010 prospect Kyrie Irving, who was waiting to become eligible due to Jersey transfer rules.

But that’s not my point. Long story short (and I don’t want to heap too much pressure on a kid I first saw play as a gawky middle-schooler at Hank Gathers Rec Center aka Moylan at 25th and Diamond in North Philly), this kid could be the next Scottie Pippen. Except better. I try not to hype these high school kids up too much, but if his class is truly the next great batch of great young players, then I’m voting for Mike G. For President.

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  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    sounds grangeresque. but you didnt mention shooting at all, does he suck at it?

  • http://slamonline.com Adam Fleischer

    For as long as I can remember, SLAM has put me on some of the best young ballers in the country. From the sounds of this, I’m sure this kid is no different. Sounds like a real nice talent, and the way you describe his attitude and love for the game, Aggrey, are the kinds of things that always draw me to players.

  • http://where-basketball-b-longs.blogspot.com B. Long

    This sounds like Michael Gilchrist is to Aggrey Sam, what LeBron James is to Ryan Jones. Can’t wait to see the kid play.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    From the first few paragraphs, he sounds a bit like Bernard King, though minus the smile. Bernard NEVER smiled on the court.

  • http://itsadcthing.blogspot.com Squad

    john gilchrist?

  • BostonBaller

    MaxPreps.com

  • Gosh, I love low IQ thugs

    His coach, Kevin Boyle, tosses around compliments like pothole covers said of Kyrie Irving, Gilchrist’s teammate, “Kyrie Irving, when it’s all said and done, he will arguably be as good as any guard who’s played in New Jersey. Any guard. Ever. Ever. DaJuan Wagner, Bobby Hurley. You’re talking about a guy who’s a great shooter, a great finisher, he’s going to be as good as anybody who’s played in New Jersey.”

    http://www.zagsblog.com/2009/02/05/kyrie-irving-the-best-jersey-guard-ever-st-pats-st-bens-notes/

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    You say the dude is 6’8 205, but for a 15yr old kid, thats pretty damn impressive weightwise. So he’s not the next potential point centre Tyson Chandler is he? Because that would be somewhat disappointing….
    It would be nice if I had ish 126 though.
    Looking forward to see what you have in 127 Mr. Sam.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    My only exposure to this kid was at LeBron Camp last summer, which Aggrey was nice enough to link to. I left with a few concerns about what seemed to be an on-court selfish streak, but those concerns were far outweighed by how impressed I was by his talent. I’m not QUITE ready to sell him as hard as Aggrey does, but I don’t doubt his potential.

  • Ken

    How many people have I heard referred to as “the next Scottie Pippen?” None of them end up like him either.

  • http://www.boomtowncasino.org/ BoomTownCasino

    good post

  • http://www.slamonline.com Justin Walsh

    Ken, I think Gilchrist enjoys being a bit selfish on offense TOO much to be Pippen-esque. But he is DEFINITELY a VERY talented basketball player.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    ryan jones went to what camp? figures. CHIPOTLE!

  • YAYAREASFINEST

    how come there wasnt a PUNKS issuue this year? i thought there was a photo shoot with lance and john wall for the cover???

  • auntie

    Give Mike his Props and watch him as he grows.
    Remember he is only 15 and he stll has room for improvement “and thats Scarey”

  • Chad

    Kid looks beastly, he’s probably going to be better than Scottie kid has a scary future though.

  • unclungs

    i don’t know who ever saw mike being selfish on the court. you must not have really seen him play. he is probably a little too unselfish if you ask me. speak what you know. he is extremely team oriented and always has been.

  • http://cash4alltoday.com The Peoples Program

    Michael’s as balanced a young phenom as you’ll ever see. His parents intentionally keep him out of the limelight as much as possible and this shows through as he is a courteous and respectful young man.

    Since he’s not full of himself he’s hungry. Like Kevin Garnett hungry. Plays as hard as any young kid I’ve seen in 20 years of following high school ball. Afer he won the Union County title he was already saying “One down, three to go.”

    He does whatever it takes to win and is one of the best on the ball defenders in the nation at 6-7. Michael will go down as one of the all-time greats in Jersey.

  • Da Hood

    Forget just Jersey, he will be as big as they come easily.

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