Gilgeous-Alexander leaving for NBA

Published 10:10 pm Monday, April 9, 2018

LEXINGTON (KT) — Shai Gilgeous-Alkexander is going to the next level and won’t be coming back.

Gilgeous-Alkexander became the second Kentucky to declare for the NBA Draft and hire an agent, joining Kevin Knox as the two of three players who have declared for the draft. PJ Washington announced his intentions of entering the draft last week, but won’t be retaining an agent, leaving the door open for a possible return next season. Sacha Killeya-Jones announced his plans to transfer and was granted a full release from his scholarship earlier Monday.

“After talking to my family, my parents and my coaches, I would like to let the world know that I’ll be entering the 2018 NBA Draft and I’ll be signing with an agent,” Gilgeous-Alexander announced live on ESPN’s SportsCenter Monday night. “I always have high expectations. I knew if I put the work in, like I did during the season behind closed doors, anything would be possible.”

Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 14.4 points last season and was impressive in the postseason, averaging 20.7 points and 6.3 assists per game.

“Shai’s development is a story I’ll tell our players for the rest of my career,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said via Twitter. “When we talk about building your own confidence and conquering yourself, Shai is the perfect example.”

Prior to the season, Gilgeous-Alexander wasn’t considered a draft prospect, but his emergence as the team’s starting point guard during the regular-season elevated his status and put him one the road to the next level sooner rather than later. Gilgeous-Alexander now is considered to be a lottery pick in the draft.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s improvement was the result of his commitment to working out beyond what was required by the team’s coaching staff. Despite the demands, Gilgeous-Alexander kept a normal class schedule and didn’t miss a beat in the classroom.

“You’re talking about a kid who had the physical tools and had the potential to be in this position, but he elevated his game because he woke up at 7 a.m. every day to work out, was the best in the weight room, watched film and never missed class,” Calipari said.

Gilgeous-Alexander was thankful for his time at Kentucky.

“I want to thank coach Cal and the staff for pushing me every single day to put me in this position,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Although a lot of people didn’t know a kid from Hamilton, Canada, would be in this position, the coaching staff believed in me as much as I believed in myself to get to this point. I want to thank the coaches and support staff for investing the time and the energy into my future and helping me mature into the man I am today. I want to take a second to say thank you to my teammates. I wouldn’t pick any other group of guys to have done this with than them. Even though the season didn’t end how we wanted it to, we achieved a lot, and I’ll never forget coming together for an SEC championship.”

Gilgeous-Alexander also praised Big Blue Nation for embracing the team throughout the season from start to finish.

“To the fans, thank you for all of your support and encouragement throughout the season. I’ve made memories here that I’ll take with me the rest of my life,” he said. “You embraced a bunch of kids you didn’t know and stuck with us through the difficult times and helped pick us up when we needed you the most. You are the best fans in the world.”

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LEXINGTON – Kentucky men’s basketball forward Sacha Killeya-Jones will transfer from UK, it was announced Monday.

Killeya-Jones will be granted a full release with no restrictions.

“The past two years at Kentucky have been an amazing journey and I want to thank all of my coaches, teammates and fans who made it possible,” Killeya-Jones said. “After much deliberation with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to ask for my release and explore other opportunities at this time. Thank you for your support through this process.”

Killeya-Jones, a five-star recruit from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, came to Kentucky as a heralded McDonald’s All-American and was a part of two Southeastern Conference Tournament championships and one regular-season crown.

“It’s never easy for me seeing a player go, especially when it’s someone you’ve seen grow as much as Sacha has and someone you want to continue to coach,” UK coach John Calipari said. “I truly believe Sacha was just starting to find out who he is and that his best days are ahead of him. I still believe that whether he’s here or someone else.

“With that said, when a kid comes to me and believes what’s best for him is somewhere else, they always have my full support. We want what’s best for these kids and will always do whatever we can to make sure they can pursue their dreams. Our staff wishes Sacha nothing but the best.”

Killeya-Jones enjoyed an improved sophomore season, charting career highs in every statistical category, including minutes, points, free throws, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. For his career he averaged, 3.1 points and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting at a 58.5-percent clip. He appeared in 49 total games during his career. He poured in a career-high 12 points vs. UT Martin during his freshman campaign and hauled in a career-high nine rebounds in UK’s Champions Classic matchup with Kansas in the third game of the 2017-18 season.