National prep schedule helped prepare Gilgeous-Alexander for better competition at Kentucky

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By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Shai Gilgeous-Alexnder took an unusual path to Kentucky.

Instead of playing a routine high school schedule, Gilgeous-Alexander toured the country as a member of Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The team participated in several events across the country, which helped prepare Gilgeous-Alexander for his freshman campaign at Kentucky.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander played a national schedule as a high school senior last season, which he says helped him prepare for what he will face at Kentucky this season. (UK Athletics Photo)

“It was fun traveling across the country,” he said. “We played some good competition and it was a lot of fun. It was a different experience. The competition (in high school) is the same and you don’t get to challenge yourself as much. Playing a national schedule is definitely more fun.”

Gilgeous-Alexander added that playing across the across gave him a chance to play against superior competition, which is what he will face at Kentucky this season.

“Everyone wants to play Kentucky and we would be all over the country playing guys and they would give us their best shot,” he said. “That’s what you get with a national schedule. There is talent all over the country and it challenges you, just like here.”

Born in Toronto, Gilgeous-Alexander’s mother Charmaine, ran track at the University of Alabama and competed in the 1992 summer Olympics, as a member of the Canadian national team. Gilgeous-Alexander said his parents are the biggest two influences in his life and his career.

“The way I was raised, my parents always taught me to just be focused and worry about the task at hand,” Alexander said. “You can only control what you can do and not worry about outside (influences). Personally I was prepared, the way my parents raised me and that’s part of the reason why I came here, knowing I can handle all of that stuff.”

Gilgeous-Alexander’s parents also pushed him to keep improving and not become comfortable and complacent.

“I got a lot of criticism growing up, but it’s helped a lot and gotten me to where I am today,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “My parents were always on me in terms of my performances and there were things I could do better. “

Upon arrival at Kentucky, Gilgeous-Alexander, who won Most Valuable Player honors in the Kentucky Derby Festival Classic last spring, he bonded quickly with his new teammates.

“It’s been a smooth transition in the family environment,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I knew coming in that the guys in the team were great guys with good personalities and stuff like that. (Arriving on campus over the summer) helped a lot with me getting adjusted in campus and really just gives me that family feeling with the team. Makes them more comfortable and makes myself more comfortable.”

Gilgeous-Alexander said he’s “gotten better in multiple ways” during the preseason and is anxious for the season to begin.

“I’ve gotten stronger, faster and more skilled and stuff like that,” he said. “I bring leadership, help my teammates and I can score when I need to. I just stay true to myself and I just keep working and things will get easier.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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