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Matthew Pilgrim 101

It seems as though Matthew Pilgrim will be a Wildcat.  Pilgrim, the 6-8, 225 pound power forward transfer from Hampton University was reportedly introduced to the team Tuesday night.  An official announcement is expected from UK on Wednesday.

Pilgrims statistics are not particularily impressive, but they aren't unimpressive either.  He averaged 19.8 minutes per game last year (his sophomore year), scoring 7.7 points per game, and gathering in 5.2 rebounds per game.  He shot 46% from the field, while starting eleven games.  His free throw shooting can best be described as troublesome -- 42% last year.  He has a penchent for fouling also; he fouled out of ten game last year (out of 26 played), and picked up four fouls in two other games.  His outside shot has only been developed over the last couple of years; his three-point shooting is proof.  In his first two years he made only 30 of 97 trifectas (31%).  Of course it isn't incumbent upon Pilgrim to make a boat-load of treys, but it is nice to at least present a threat from deep. As we know, a forward who can also shoot from beyond 15 feet will pull a defender out from underneath the basket, allowing for more freedom in the paint for the other "bigs".

One aspect of his statistical history that I found curious is the fact that his minutes per game, and scoring per game both dropped from his freshman year to his sophomore year.  Pilgrim's freshman numbers are actually quite encouraging: 24.0 minutes per game, 11.0 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, and he shot 47% from the floor -- not bad for any freshman, in any league(he played in the MEAC).  Why he lost four minutes per game from his first year to his second is open for debate, but very possibly his alleged inconsistent effort may have been the cause.

Consequently, Pilgrim has been described as talented, but inconsistent.  He reportedly has dominated games for a stretch of a few minutes, then disappear for chunks of game time.  Aran Smith of describes Pilgrim in glowing terms athletically: Pilgrim possesses "excellent versatility" because he "can face the basket, or go inside".  Smith continues with his tribute by saying that Pilgrim "can play with anyone in the country and dominate". 

Pilgrim is supposedly an "excellent ball-handler" with long arms "which give him added size, and makes him an effective shot-blocker and rebounder."  The down side of Pilgrims game is illuminated with this quote; Pilgrim "has a real presence on the floor WHEN HE DECIDES TO PLAY"(emphasis mine).  Ahh, therein lies the rub.

There had to be a catch somewhere; talented but athletically lazy, gifted but inconsistent.  What does a coach do with someone of Pilgrim's reported ilk?  Send them to Billy Gillispie, that's what.  Pilgrims attitude towards effort does not bother me in the least.  Gillispie will run, work, and exorcise that particular 'tude back to Virginia.  If not, UK will have an open scholarship for '09.  Gillispie has an entire year to evaluate, and if necessary, alter Pilgrim's attitude.  I'm sure the upcoming year of practice sessions will be the proving ground for Mr. Pilgrim.  But I also feel that if coach and player didn't feel positive that a change could be made, then player would never have agreed to play for coach, and vice-versa.  

For me, this signing clearly falls into the category of "Gillispie knows that which he does".  I think he sees a terrific athlete who is physically capable of competing at the highest level.  I think he sees the possibilities, not the problems.  The ever elusive "upside" seems to be very high with this player.  In my view, it's hard to find fault with Gillispie for accepting the challenge.

I'm sure I speak for most of Big Blue Nation when I say, welcome to UK, Matthew.  By the way, Pilgrim is aware of  UK's pathologically obsessive fan base.  He's from up the road in Cincinnati, where he attended high school, before matriculating to Bridgton Academy. 

Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!