Talented, Hardworking and Competitive: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s Early Review of Life with the Thunder

By Nick Gallo | Digital Content Reporter | mailbag@okcthunder.com

Stooping his head first through the door of Eugene Field Elementary and then squeezing himself into the cozy confines of the Rolling Thunder Book Bus, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander found himself surrounded by mini-me’s. He said the kids were a lot like he was over a decade ago when he was a youngster looking up to professional basketball players.

After making a play for the Oklahoma City community by passing new books to youngsters, Gilgeous-Alexander dished out some answers to reporters during his first official press opportunity since joining the Thunder. He had heard a lot about the organization before coming over in a trade in July, but the experience has exceeded expectations.

“Above and beyond,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I’ve loved it so far. It’s been great to me. I just can’t wait to get started.”

The second-year Thunder guard then got peppered with 10-minutes worth of questions on all sorts of subjects, highlighted below:

On the rise of Canadian basketball players like himself, ranging from his childhood hero Steve Nash up to the now 22 active Canadian NBA players:

“We’ve gotten more exposure with AAU and things like that. There’s always been talent across the border, it’s just a matter of being seen. Then guys making it before us and kids seeing us make it gives them a little hope.”  

On how he was able to improve his production and performance in the second half of his freshman season at Kentucky and rookie season with the LA Clippers:

“I just soak things up and learn and as time goes on. I get better because I learn from my mistakes. That’s the same thing I’m going to try to do with this organization, this team.”

On going through an intense playoff battle with the Golden State Warriors as a rookie:

“I was just grateful for the opportunity. Not a lot of guys get to experience that during their rookie season. I learned so much from it, the preparation before the game to things during the game and things that will go with me for the rest of my career.”

On his feeling about Oklahoma City itself so far:  

“I went to school in Lexington (at the University of Kentucky). It’s a smaller city and has a home-y feeling and I get the same feeling here, so I’m excited.”

On his new Thunder teammates:

“I feel like we’re really talented. A bunch of guys I’ve met so far are hardworking and competitive. With those three things you can go as far as you need to.”

On Danilo Gallinari, who came to the Thunder with Gilgeous-Alexander in the same trade:

“Really skilled, a competitor as well. An even better guy than he is a basketball player. One of my vets obviously from my rookie season. I’m happy to have him still with me.”

On playing against Steven Adams last season:

“Honestly he was very annoying. His screens are a rock and very annoying to get over. Having him on my side of the playing field will be a lot better this year.”

On what he’s learned already from veteran guard and Thunder newcomer Chris Paul:

“Some of the things I’d like to keep secret. I’ve learned a lot from him in terms of thinking the game, angles and things like that… His ability to get shots off at his size is what differentiates him.”

On his experience thus far with Billy Donovan:

“We built a pretty good relationship in the short amount of time we’ve known each other. He seems like a really honest and straightforward coach. Guys like that I love playing for, guys that aren’t going to sugar coat it, and tell you how it is so you can get better. I’m excited to play for him.”

On his own game:

“Strong points are leadership, playmaking, penetrating ability. Weak points: I feel like I need to get stronger. I feel like I’ve done so. Then just shooting the ball from deep off the dribble as well as catch and shoot… I just work hard, keep my head down and be true to who I am.”

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