LEXINGTON — Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said Tuesday that he had a good Christmas break because his mother recovered from an illness that forced her to be hospitalized the same day UK beat Loyola (Md.) before the three-day holiday break started.
“It was on my mind. I considered not playing. I tried to fight through it, so that’s what I did," Kidd-Gilchrist said.
The freshman forward also had an interesting explanation/comparison to why he's been getting up early recently to work out and led to coach John Calipari urging more Wildcats to do the same.
"I’m like a Tim Tebow. I just want to win the games, however it takes,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I just like his mindset.”
Nothing wrong with that, but UK players and fans should like Kidd-Gilchrist's mindset just as much. The "Breakfast Club" that Calipari thinks can have a dramatic impact on his team has had up to eight players participating in early morning workouts.
“A lot of chemistry is building up,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “It’s like a brotherhood now.”
Kidd-Gilchrist certainly has established himself as the team leader in Calipari's mind, even though he's just a freshman.
"There comes a point where you step up and start dragging the team, even as a young player," Calipari said. "He's begun to do that."
And he seems happy to be doing it.
"I'm ready to lead. I'm a freshman, but so what?" Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I’ve always done that.”
So what indeed. He's the man for the Cats and everyone knows it. He’s second on the team in points (13.1 per game), rebounds (6.9) and field goal percent (52.4). He's become known nationally as a defensive stopper and high-energy player all the time. He is averaging 15.4 points and 9.4 rebounds over his last five games. Only twice this season has he failed to score in double figures.
He wanted no part of being considered the team’s most valuable player. Remember, he offered to give up his starting spot so Calipari could put senior Darius Miller back into the starting unit.
“I don’t get into all that. I’m just a winner. That’s it,” Kidd-Gilchrist said when told me could be the team’s MVP.
Calipari said Kidd-Gilchrist just has a different type of mental toughness than most players do.
“I’ve had a bunch of them,” Calipari said. “Lou Roe was a killer when I was at UMass. So was Harper Williams. Those guys were absolute warriors. And you know where it started? Those guys were absolute warriors in practice. The last 20 minutes of every practice, those two dominated.
“Those guys that work hard, that really spend time, benefit when they leave and get out of basketball. They understand that if I really work, I can become good at it.”
Kidd-Gilchrist gets that, but his love of winning motivates him more than anything. If the Cats win, he’s happy. You won’t see him pouting if the team wins and his stats are not good. He’s not that way.
But nothing has made him happier than finding out his mom back in New Jersey was OK.
“It was a tough time. She’s my mother so of course it was a tough time. I fought through it. It was hard, I mean, it was my mother. But she’s fine now, so it’s all good,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “I spent Christmas at my house. I was with my mom and that’s all that matters.”
He admits the holiday break came at a good time, but now he’s ready for business again.
“I’m just ready to go now. I’m ready to get it going,” he said.
And at Kentucky this year, nobody gets it going better than Kidd-Gilchrist.