Irving, Gilchrist go one-on-one


This story appeared in the New Jersey edition of the December ESPN RISE Magazine.

Life is good for Kyrie Irving and Michael Gilchrist. They are the nation's No. 1 duo on the nation's preseason No. 2 team, St. Patrick. Irving, a 6-foot-3 point guard, is the No. 6 senior in the ESPNU 100, while Gilchrist, a 6-foot-6 small forward, is the No. 1 junior in the ESPNU Super 60. Plenty has already been written about the pair, and even more will be in the future. So we decided to flip the script. Irving wants to study journalism when he gets to Duke, so what better way to get started than to have him interview his teammate? And of course we let Gilchrist throw out a few questions as well. They're best friends who do everything together -- hang out, play ball and even co-star in "High School Musical," this year's school play. They hit on topics ranging from Irving being born in Australia (where his father, Drederick, was playing pro ball) to the recruiting process to an AAU showdown between Irving's NJ Roadrunners and Gilchrist's Team Final this summer. Just don't ask who would win a game of one-on-one.

That's still up for debate.

Kyrie Irving: What are your earliest memories of playing ball?
Michael Gilchrist: My first basketball game I remember.
KI: Were you nervous?
MG: No. I had those long socks on and the headband, you know? With the wristbands and everything. What are your earliest memories?
KI: When I was younger, we lived in the Bronx …
MG: You didn't live in the Bronx, your dad lived in the Bronx. You lived in Australia.
KI: Timeout. I was born in Australia, and I spent a year there. My dad was playing professionally over there. I came to the United States and lived in Seattle, then I moved to the Bronx.
KI: I remember the first time me and my father built a court in my backyard (in West Orange). I used to play him until it was like 10 o'clock at night. We could barely see, and I would never beat him. And I would cry. I would cry at night because I could never beat him. Until I was 16, that's when I actually beat him for the first time.
MG: It was last year? Hard times are rough.
KI: I don't want to talk about it. It's a sensitive moment for me. Now he never wants to play me. It definitely built up my character on and off the court. Every time I was in the backyard working out by myself, I always pictured me going against him. If I could beat my father, then I knew I could beat anyone else. That's basically how I looked at it. It strengthened my game physically and mentally.

KI: When did you first know how good you were?
MG: I always thought I was good, but I don't really know. Probably the age of 10. I was on my first AAU team, the South Jersey Blitz. It sounds like a football team, right? How about you?
KI: Probably like two years ago.
MG: I think it was last year. You just blew up last year. I didn't know you were all that good, to tell you the truth.
KI: During the season, I wasn't. Until the beginning of the summer, and this whole summer is when it really blew up for me. I knew how good I was, it was just basically showing the world.

MG: When did you first get interest from colleges?
KI: The first school that offered me a scholarship was Texas A&M, and that's why they were on my list. My first recruiting letter was from St. Joseph's in Philadelphia. I have probably about 14 shoeboxes of letters. It was just crazy, especially in the beginning.
MG: It's overwhelming.
KI: It's going to get a lot more. I'm glad the recruiting process is over. The most stressful part was the calling.
MG: There was a call every day at his house.
KI: After the summer I had, it was call after call after call. It really got overwhelming. You would pick up different numbers every time and it was either a media person or a coach.

KI: When did you first get interest from colleges?
MG: My freshman year, I think. The first one was Stanford. I still have it.

MG: What are your best basketball memories?
KI: Beating the No. 1 and No. 2 AAU teams in the country this summer. Just the thrill of it. It was just great. It went into overtime, they were predicted to win, we were the underdog and we came out on top. Nothing better. That was Team Final, which featured Division I All-Stars Michael Gilchrist, Dion Waiters, Trevor Cooney and Tyreek Duren. Then we played All-Ohio Red, which had Jared Sullinger.
MG: I was so mad after that game.
KI: I would have been mad, too.

KI: Who would win in a game of one-on-one?
MG: Me.
KI: Huh? Who would win?
MG: Me.
KI: I already know what you would do. Take it to the post.
MG: I would win, I know that.

KI: No, but it's cool.
MG: I'd take him to the post, because he's a little baby. You know what I mean? Muscle him a little bit.
KI: No comment. I let my game speak for itself.
MG: I would sag off just a little bit …
KI: No. Just not happening.
MG: … and just play from there. You really can't stop him because he can go right or left.
KI: No, I can be stopped. I'd have to play off him a bit because, like I said, he's unguardable.

KI: What's something beyond basketball you'd like people to know about you?
MG: I love my mom and dad …
KI: And you love Kyrie.
MG: I do love Kyrie. This is like my best friend right here.

KI: What's it like playing for coach (Kevin) Boyle and
St. Patrick's?
MG: It's just hard work. We work hard in practices.
KI: There's a lot more pressure on us now.
MG: I don't believe in pressure.
KI: OK. There's a lot more expectations that we have to live up to, especially with the talented team we have this year. … Every time we go out there we're always going to have a bull's-eye on our back. So this season it's different.
MG: It's an honor just to be in this gym.
KI: With how many people have come through this small gym, everybody knows about this gym.
MG: I never would have thought in a million years we'd be here together.