SGA’s Journey: Cut From High School Team To NBA All-Star Starter

From billboards around Indianapolis during All-Star Weekend, to starring in a National TV Ad, to having the biggest names in Sports Media fawn over him Shai’s fame stretches well beyond the borders of Oklahoma.  

Tuesday, May 21st 2024, 9:41 pm

By: News 9, Chris Williams


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From billboards around Indianapolis during All-Star Weekend, to starring in a National TV Ad, to having the biggest names in Sports Media fawn over him Shai’s fame stretches well beyond the borders of Oklahoma.  

“Sometimes I sit back and it’s surreal. Just, like, where I was a decade ago, to think I’m here now is a crazy feeling,” said Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

A decade ago, SGA was a 9th grader trying out for the sophomore basketball team at St. Thomas More in Ontario, Canada, and getting cut.

“He did not stand out in that JV tryout. He didn’t shoot like he does now, that’s for sure. Back then, again, he was of average height, right? So, the growth spurt did help big time in terms of elevating his game,” said Stef Giovannangeli, SGA’s high school coach.

Shai didn’t sulk when he didn’t make the team, he got to work.  

“When I fail and lose is when I am most motivated. I think getting cut kind of kick-started that,” SGA said.

“He took that as a challenge, and we kind of challenged him, saying, ‘Listen, we know you are disappointed, but with this team, you will have an opportunity to play a different role. You are going to be a starter, you’re going to log lots of minutes, and you are going to be a leader.’ I think he really took that on full force,” Giovannangeli said.

Shai led the 9th grade team to a city championship that season. Which is impressive but doesn’t exactly scream “future NBA MVP candidate”. Still, SGA always believed.  

“I guess I probably sounded crazy back then. I probably sounded a little too confident. I always had a feeling I would get here. I just always knew I could control my destiny and where I would end up,” SGA said.

“The kid in grade 9- we still speak about it to this day. He was our hardest worker at practice, he led by example, and he treated every teammate on that team, from player one to thirteen, like they were a starter. It’s not a surprise that that is how he has turned out to be an adult,” Giovannangeli said.

If you think getting cut from his high school basketball team lit a fire inside Shai – just wait until you see what losing in the playoffs does.

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