They are just boys in the photo. The one in which barely smiling teens point their No.1 finger to show they are the city’s 2013 high school midget basketball champions.

At that point, neither of the two Grade Niners sitting side by side in the front row of the St. Thomas More team photo had a clue that eight years later one of them would sign a $ 172 million contract in the NBA.

“It’s literally mind-blowing,” says Connor McGauchie.

He is not the signer.

It would be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who wrote last week to enlist in the Oklahoma City Thunder for the next five years in exchange for what equates to $ 215 million in loons. Which is roughly $ 85 million more than any active NHL player in this region has earned in their careers so far. Combined. And made him by far Hamilton’s highest-paid athlete – and one of its richest people – overnight.

“It’s crazy to see,” said McGauchie.

Speaking to the 22-year-old, it’s clear he’s not jealous. Surprised ? Yes. Soufflé? Absoutely. Dazed? Who would not be. But not envious.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from Hamilton attended prep school in Chattanooga, Tenn.Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator Archive Photo

Having said that, it’s such an amazing amount of money that the logistics paramedic in the city of Hamilton can’t really imagine. Who among us could?

A Lamborghini costs around $ 350,000. Gilgeous-Alexander could buy 614 of them. Hamilton’s most expensive house (the mansion on Garner Road in Ancaster) is for sale for $ 49 million. He could buy four.

Tim Hortons Field cost $ 145 million. He could have paid for it and he had enough left to cover all the salaries of all CFL players this year and he still had over $ 20 million in spending money.

Oh, and the deal could be worth US $ 207 million – C $ 259 million – if the guy oftentimes referred to as SGA is elected to an all-NBA team within five years. A quarter of a billion dollars.

It’s impossible not to be impressed with that amount, but with or without it, McGauchie thinks it’s incredibly cool that he was once the teammate of a guy who went on to become a huge NBA star.

Back in high school days, when he was five feet tall, Gilgeous-Alexander was a skinny little boy who publicly said he was horrible at that age. It might be too critical a self-assessment, but what we know for sure is that the future pro was playing in this team because he didn’t make the junior team. So, he clearly wasn’t great yet.

McGauchie remembers he was still damn good.

“He led us to a championship,” he says.

Hamilton's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander last week signed a five-year, US $ 172 million contract with the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder.
Hamilton’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander last week signed a five-year, US $ 172 million contract with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.Seth Wenig

Even so, no one thought the kid with the oversized feet was meant for the NBA. Even at that age, they understood that stuff like that doesn’t happen. Maybe he had become a high school freak. If things went well, he might be part of a Canadian university team.

After this school year, Gilgeous-Alexander transferred to Sir Allan MacNab. Then, for grade 11, he headed to a prep school south of the border. Where the previously undersized teenager grew to 6 feet 6 inches. And where he became a star.

McGauchie didn’t really hear from his former teammate until he read something about his signing with the University of Florida. Then changing her mind and heading for the Kentucky basketball home.

“Holy shit,” he remembers thinking.

He has followed the journey every step of the way since then. The academic career. The main role in March Madness. The 11th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The great rookie season. The Los Angeles Clippers trade in Oklahoma City. And now this.

McGauchie doesn’t often broadcast that he was once an SGA teammate. No need to drop the names, he said. Even if he did, there would be no shame in it.

You can be sure a few people mentioned their one-off ties to Darnell Nurse or John Levy last week when the former signed a $ 74 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers and the latter’s application – Score Media, which focuses on betting and is one of the most read digital sports sites in North America – sold for $ 2 billion. And you know a lot of people have spoken over the years of their connection to Dave Andreychuk or Kia Nurse or Martin Short or whoever made it huge.

“We’re happy for the guy,” McGauchie said of Gilgeous-Alexander. “I have no kind of jealousy. It’s just nice to see the person who did the job and showed dedication getting there.

What about that shot of the championship team he’s sitting next to the future Thunder star? He remembers it.

Connor McGauchie (front row, left) sits next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and their Knights of St. Thomas More as they celebrate their grade 9 midget high school title.
Connor McGauchie (front row, left) sits next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and their Knights of St. Thomas More as they celebrate their grade 9 midget high school title.Courtesy of Stef Giovannangeli

In fact, he’s pretty sure it’s still on his phone.


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