By LARRY VAUGHT
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been on an upward trend like few Kentucky players in recent seasons the last few weeks –- or was before he went 1-for-6 in the loss at Tennessee.
He was ranked below every UK freshman signee except Jamarl Baker but now could be UK’s best and most dependable player in large part because of his ability to get to the rim and finish shots.
Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee says Gilgeous-Alexander reminds him of former UK assistant coach Rod Strickland, a veteran NBA player.
“Shai’s got the perfect basketball body. He’s long, he’s got a short torso, long legs, long arms, and he’s really crafty with the ball. He doesn’t depend on athleticism to score at the rim. He can finish at a lot of different angles,” Barbee said. “That was Rod Strickland. He could get to that rim and there would be three 7-footers swatting at the ball and the next thing you know, the ball is going in the basket. You’re like, ‘How did he get it in in there? It’s the same thing with Shai.”
Barbee said it was vintage Gilgeous-Alexander against Louisville, one of the nation’s best shot blocking teams, when he had no fear going inside.
“He knows how to use angles and knows how to use that rim to protect and finish no matter who is in there. So he’s kind of the ideal guy when you look at him with his game, driving that ball in the paint, able to finish the ball right hand, left hand just as effectively. So he’s a difficult guard if you let him get downhill and get to that rim,” Barbee said.
Don’t think that is something coaches, including Calipari, can teach.
“Instincts make a fantastic coach and he’s got a lot of great instincts,” Barbee said.