Measurables: 6'6", 190 lbs
High School: St. Patrick (Elizabeth, NJ)
AAU: Team Final
Recruiting Rankings: 5*/3rd (Rivals), 5*/5th (Scout), 5*/3rd (ESPNU)
Accolades: McDonald's A-A & MVP, Nike Hoop Summit Participant, Jordan Brand Classic Participant, Gatorade New Jersey POY, ESPN Rise Mr. Basketball USA, Parade 4th Team A-A, Wootten POY Finalist, Naismith POY Finalist, USA U-17 Gold Medal Winner
From a recruiting standpoint, Michael Gilchrist has been so good for so long it's easy to forget about him. Unlike Austin Rivers or James Michael McAdoo, he doesn't have a famous last name. Unlike Tony Wroten or DeAndre Daniels, he didn't have a controversial recruiting narrative. And unlike future teammate, he didn't have a meteoric rise to stardom.
But don't consider Gilchrist under the radar by any means. Prior to his senior season and the ascension of Rivers and Davis, Gilchrist was considered the top overall prospect in his class by most recruiting services. In fact, he's still not far from the pole position and should certainly be considered one of the premier "diaper dandies" going into next season.
Most of the lack of Gilchrist hype (if you're following the meme) stems from his relatively quiet recruitment. Gilchrist chose to commit on April 14, 2010, a date significant for two reasons. The first, and the reason Gilchrist chose that date, is that it was the birthday of his late father. The second is that it was the first day of the late signing period for the 2010 class, and also the day John Calipari scored the commitment from heralded point guard Brandon Knight.
Because of the early commitment, not many blue blood schools were active in his recruitment; Gilchrist's second choice was Villanova, a brand name but not a perennial powerhouse. Instead, Gilchrist became the cornerstone of Kentucky's 2011 recruiting class. He may not have the flash of Marquis Teague or the hype of Anthony Davis, but he'll be who he's always been: a competitor, a warrior, and an excellent teammate. Get excited, Kentucky fans.
Gilchrist is a jack-of-all-trades. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but I assure you it isn't. Gilchrist is really, really good at just about every aspect of the game. Let's start on the defensive end, which is really where he'll shine in a Kentucky uniform. Gilchrist is a tenacious defender, which a size and reach that allows him to defend multiple positions. His only struggle would be against oversized bigs and quick guards; otherwise, he should be an elite defender on 2 guards through power forwards. That versatility will be shown in a multitude of ways. He's equally crafty as a one-on-one or help defender, with a reach that can stifle on-ball penetration, pickpocket an unsuspecting ballhandler, or stuff a layup attempt.
He's an excellent rebounder for his size, especially if he's slotted in at the 3 against smaller, more perimeter-oriented players. After clearing the glass, he is capable of starting fast breaks in the opposite direction. For some exciting examples, check out the 1:20 mark of the Winter Park game, where he tosses a beautiful outlet pass that leads to an easy bucket, or the 0:17 mark of the USA mix, where he takes a rebound and coasts end-to-end.
On the offensive end, he's a solid ball-handler that likes to play outside-in. Like Calipari's other 2011 recruits, Gilchrist looks tailor-made for the Dribble Drive Motion Offense (DDMO). He can catch the ball on the perimeter and utilize his size to shoot over a small defender or drive on a slower one. He displays a wicked crossover for such a tall body, making lesser high school defenders look silly in the process. The 7:25 mark of the Winter Park game has an excellent DDMO-principled example, where he takes a pass on the perimeter from a penetrating guard and makes magic happen.
It's not often seen on the YouTubes, but there's clear evidence from the Winter Park video that Gilchrist can hit free throws. His form is solid, and he won't be afraid to go to earn his points at the line.
I wouldn't dare put "master of none" down here, as Gilchrist is very capable at many aspects of the game. Where he may end up struggling some is against a raised level of competition. At the high school level, Gilchrist was quicker than lumbering bigs and rangier than shifty swingmen. At the collegiate level, he'll draw his fair share of combo forwards and perimeter ballhandlers that can body up and stay with Gilchrist. A couple of SEC comparators include Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor and Alabama's Tony Mitchell, two versatile, explosive swingmen that can go toe-to-toe with Gilchrist.
Because Gilchrist may find pure dribble penetration difficult against better athletes, he'll have to develop a capable jumper. Extending the floor is even more key when you consider Gilchrist's teammates. The starting backcourt of Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb will be the primary ballhandlers, and it'll be near impossible to keep the ball out of the hands of Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones inside. To that end, the fifth man, or the small forward, will need to affect the game without being a primary creator. Consequently, Gilchrist will need to become an excellent shooter, both to stretch the floor for the bigs and be an available triggerman on dribble penetration.
Unlike Teague and Davis, who are already penciled in for starting spots at PG and C, respectively, Gilchrist comes into a position of strength for John Calipari. The Cats return senior Darius Miller at the 3, a two-year starter, and Terrence Jones at the 4, a potential 2011 lottery pick who opted to return. As talented as he is, Gilchrist will be hard-pressed to start from day 1.
That's not entirely a bad thing. Much like the 2010-11 season, the Cats will go with a six-man rotation that divvies out starter minutes to all parties. If there's an immediate comparison for Gilchrist, it's DeAndre Liggins, who was an imperative contributor last year. Like Liggins, Gilchrist will usually draw the toughest defensive assignment and be asked to sacrifice ball-handling for offensive spacing. He'll draw heavy rotation minutes when heady defense is needed. For early season evidence of how ready Gilchrist is, see how many minutes he draws guarding North Carolina's Harrison Barnes.
Draft Express' Jonathan Givony notes that Gilchrist has a little Scottie Pippen in him, and I think that's an apt ceiling. He may not be Air Gilchrist at Kentucky, but he's still in the high up in the stratosphere and will be a valuable piece of the puzzle next year.
McDonald's All-American Practices (April 2011)
St. Patrick vs. Winter Park (Austin Rivers) (1/14/11)
St. Patrick vs. Bishop Gorman in HoopHall Classic (Jan 2011)
Team USA Highlights (July 2010)