Freshman takes over leadership role at Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist spent the first six weeks of his collegiate career stuck between trying to be a leader and realizing he’s got a lot to learn.

Kentucky coach John Calipari talks with his team, including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (center). The freshman has helped the 11-1 Wildcats bond with his play and early-morning workouts.  File/Associated Press
File/Associated Press
Kentucky coach John Calipari talks with his team, including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (center). The freshman has helped the 11-1 Wildcats bond with his play and early-morning workouts.

When coach John Calipari noticed the 6-foot-7 forward’s initiative in his own early morning workouts, he pushed Kidd-Gilchrist to find a way to get the rest of the third-ranked Wildcats involved. Kidd-Gilchrist was often in the gym by 8:30 a.m., an exceedingly early hour for the average 18-year-old.

“Everybody got the text from Mike,” freshman Anthony Davis said. “I knew I was going to show up regardless, whoever texted me. That’s my brother, my little brother, we work out together.”

Calipari told Kidd-Gilchrist and the others about the Chicago Bulls’ breakfast club when Michael Jordan and a handful of teammates began working out together with the NBA great’s personal trainer before eating and heading to practice.

Jordan’s efforts following the 1989-90 season led to the Bulls’ dynasty that included six titles in the decade.

Kentucky’s version would settle for just one NCAA championship this season before many of the players make the jump to the NBA. The Wildcats are now 11-1.

“It’s just weights and just shooting and having a good time. That’s what we do,” Kidd-Gilchrist said of the morning rituals before breakfast that will start again after the Christmas break. “It’s a team thing. We just want to get better.”

While Davis is considered the top player in Kentucky’s freshman class, it’s been Kidd-Gilchrist who has been the glue of the group.

“I’ll be honest with you, he’s dragging our team, which is great stuff. He’s dragging us. He’s doing it whether it’s rebounding, scoring, making free throws, making 3s when he has to,” Calipari said of Kidd-Gilchrist.

Kidd-Gilcrhist is averaging 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He’s developed a knack for appearing to be the most intense player among a starting five.

“You know, he drags us in practice, he drags us in morning workouts. He means so much,” Calipari said.


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