Always looking for a reason back to my hometown of Cleveland, I was more than stoked when I heard that top-5 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was training at Beachwood High School, giving me a justifiable reason to make the 500+-mile trek from NC for a few days and also to see one of the truly elite players in the Draft.
Signing with Cleveland native Rich Paul of CAA, Kidd-Gilchrist has been keeping a relatively low profile and is staying with the CAA team during the process as opposed to going to more lavish pre-Draft destinations such as L.A. or Vegas. Invited to come and check him out, our own Brenden Bowers rolled with us to the workouts to chop it up with the camp just days after putting out this dope piece earlier this week.
Fresh off of letting the ink dry on a multi-year sneaker contract from Nike, Kidd-Gilchrist was back in the gym for two-a-days with Long Island-based trainer Jerry Powell. Powell, who has a client list that includes Danny Green, Eddy Curry, Mike James, Andre Barrett and AJ Price, is an intense ex-guard who put in work at Southern Connecticut. In the morning session, he took it easy on his star pupil because he was going to go through “a crazy one” later in the afternoon. What he was referring to was a grueling two-hour workout later in the day at Garfield Heights High School. Though things were brief in the a.m., you could see the strides he made with Powell.
The emphasis of the morning session was definitely on the Kentucky freshman’s form shooting and ball handling. There was a ton of two-ball dribbling with a variation of inside-outs, crossovers and between-the-legs moves. What followed was a brief 30-minute shooting session. Powell stopped the workout any time MKG didn’t do something to his liking. While the shots were definitely falling for the 6-7, 18-year-old, they didn’t go without brief breaks for instruction to reinforce the main thing Powell says they’re here to hone: his jumper.
“A lot of shooting. Different types of shooting. Catch and shoot, shooting off the dribble, and things like that since we already know he can get to the basket,” Powell said when asked what the main focus of Kidd-Gilchrist’s pre-Draft training was going to be. “Also, we’re articulating to him why he misses and why he makes shots, so that way he can make adjustments himself because most trainers aren’t always going to be there. Any time he misses a shot, I tell him what he does wrong and why he missed the shot.”
With the first workout now in the books, the group took a break for lunch before reconvening at 3 p.m. at a new location, Garfield Heights High School, for a second workout. It gave us the perfect amount of time for us to shoot over to Mickey Flickey’s and grab a polish boy (if you aren’t from Cleveland, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about) while MKG probably went with a healthier option.
Though things started a little late at Garfield, there was a side court that had some run going with overseas guys Chet Mason, Nate Gerwig, Haminn Quaintance, Demetrius Johnson, and high school/college players Paul McQueen, Jermaine Davis, Tony Farmer, Willie Jackson and more. Once Team CAA walked in, the gym was cleared and it was time to go back to work.
The intensity level picked up from the second that the guys hit the floor. After doing some brief form shooting to get loose, Powell threw the MMA gloves on and began to hit Kidd-Gilchrist repeatedly as he did the drills in order to simulate the physical style of play that he will soon be accustomed to in the League. From there, they began doing a 3, 2, 1 drill in which he shot a three, did a mid-range pull-up, and then went all the way to the rim for a finish.
The energy and intensity in the gym was hyped with Powell emphatically mixing cheers of motivation in with spurs of instruction. The tough love approach was enough to exhaust Kidd-Gilchrist, but not to the point that he was going to need an IV after the workout. You know, that happy medium in between putting in work and going to the point of complete fatigue.
The guaranteed lottery pick finished up the workout with some more shooting. Kidd-Gilchrist’s three-point shot went in at an over 50 percent clip on the day, albeit in spurts. While he shot the ball well from beyond the arc, MKG looked even better when he was pulling up from mid-range after doing a series of dribble moves. Powell emphasized that he needed to “be able to score going both ways and read the defense from a triple threat standpoint.” And while the hitch in his shot that everyone so often frets upon is still there, but he got outstanding results.
“The form shooting is going to get rid of the hitch. The hitch has actually gotten better,” said Powell matter of factly with his Northeast accent. “The hitch is always going to be there, but with the right mechanics, he’s going to make shots.”
With the Draft just a little over a month away, Kidd-Gilchrist is sitting pretty. His range looks to be anywhere from the second pick to the fifth pick, and will almost certainly be the first perimeter. He’s going to be doing one-on-none workouts at this point since he doesn’t have anything to gain and only everything to lose at this point.
At the end of the day, it’s not going to be workouts that get him his position in the Draft; it’s going to be the fact that he’s a gamer. He’s won at the high school, AAU and collegiate levels. Everyone has doubted him and he’s constantly proved them wrong. Of course, that isn’t the decision of Kidd-Gilchrist to show his stuff solo who may be the most fierce competitor of anyone in the Draft.
“The motor. For kid’s to have the intensity that he has at a young age… that’s very interesting. You don’t find that very often,” responded Powell, when probed on what the one trait that set MKG apart from the pack was. “He’s a kid who has won at every level and could easily be big headed, but stays with that same intensity and that’s why he’s going to get better.”