Gilgeous-Alexander has a family rivalry to win against Virginia Tech


Kentucky freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander reacts to a Fort Wayne pass during the game against Fort Wayne on Wednesday, November 22, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 86-67. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

There is no rivalry like one among family members. In their first Lexington matchup since the 1962-63 season, the UK men’s basketball team will play Virginia Tech Saturday, and UK guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has a personal reason to do well in this one.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s cousin and high school teammate, wing player Nickeil Alexander-Walker, will meet for the first time in collegiate competition.

Alexander-Walker has led the Hokies in scoring on three different occasions, scoring a career-high 29 points against Citadel earlier this season. Gilgeous-Alexander’s career high in scoring is 15 points, scored against Monmouth in the last game.

Aside from point production, Gilgeous-Alexander has been a defensive force, as he is on pace with NBA Champion Rajon Rondo’s record for steals in a single season at UK with 21 so far.

Both cousins shoot over 50 percent from the floor and 40 percent from deep and they play a similar position, meaning Gilgeous-Alexander will likely guard his cousin at some point in the game.

He said he isn’t specifically asking for that defensive assignment, however.

“No, just winning the game,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Coach will take care of that.”

Gilgeous-Alexander also said that he’s the better trash talker of the two, but said he’s holding back until the game that he’s been looking forward to since it was scheduled.

“I definitely am the better trash talker,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “He’ll agree with that one.”

He also said that this week the cousins have been going back and forth, saying “mostly stuff like ‘we’re going to win,’ stuff like that. I don’t want to hurt his spirit. I’ll let the game hurt his spirit.”

The UK cousin is coming off a 15-point, nine-assist, six-rebound game against Monmouth in New York City after fellow point guard Quade Green left the game with an eye injury.

Alexander-Walker’s last game was a 16-point, eight-rebound performance while shooting 4-4 from the three-point line in a 93-40 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore.

The cousins will square off Saturday at 2 p.m. in the two teams’ first game in Rupp Arena.