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Roster shakeup: SGA heads to NBA; SKJ to transfer

LEXINGTON, Ky. (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.