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Shai Alexander, Wenyen Gabriel are the surprises of Kentucky Basketball offseason

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A very encouraging development for the Cats.

Canada Basketball and Getty Images

Coming into the offseason, Wenyen Gabriel and Shai Alexander were afterthoughts for what’s shaping up to be another special UK team next season.

Guys like Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt and Quade Green have gotten most of the attention. However, it’s been Gabriel and Alexander who’ve impressed the most in summer workouts, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

Rothstein has previously reported that Gabriel has been Kentucky’s best player this summer. This is the first real mention of Alexander outside of Lexington, though he’s drawn some nice praise from current and former Cats.

After returning to Lexington for John Calipari’s Pro Camp, Malik Monk singled out Alexander as someone who surprised the former Cat.

“I’ve worked out with most of them, but what’s his name? Shai? He surprised me, because I’d never seen him before,” said Monk.

Back in June, Alexander was drawing praise from his fellow freshmen.

“He’s not one of the top-ranked players, but I think he’s really good,” Knox told SEC Country. “He’s really good in pick-and-roll situations, he’s really good at changing speeds. I think he’s one of the sleepers on our team.”

Going into next season, most experts would have pegged Gabriel and Alexander around the 7th/8th/9th men off the bench, but it’s clear they aren’t letting that happen without a fight.

Gabriel showed enough potential last season to think he could end up being a solid starter next season. Alexander was a late-riser on the recruiting circuit, though he was ranked 19th overall in the final 247 Class of 2017 rankings.

Another good thing about Gabriel and Alexander is they’re both versatile enough to play multiple spot. Alexander can probably play the point, the 2 or even the 3. I also don’t think it’s a done deal that Green is the lead point guard, as Alexander has enough talent to take that spot if Green isn’t playing at the level John Calipari had hoped.

Perhaps neither player having great summers should be a surprise. Frankly, with so much untapped potential on this roster, there’s really no telling who UK’s top players will be next season outside of Knox and Diallo, and even they aren’t locks for stardom.

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