CINCINNATI -- Basketball season started slowly for Xavier sophomore Kaiser Gates, but the five games he missed due to a knee scope have become distant memories.
The 6-foot-8-inch forward played a career game Jan. 7 against St. John's at Cintas Center, where he scored a career-best 17 points behind four 3-pointers, and he cracked the starting rotation in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout at Cincinnati three weeks later.
Gates is a unique talent who's often difficult to defend because of the match-up challenges he poses. Unlike most players his size, he takes most of his field goal attempts from the perimeter.
Gates sat down recently to talk about his coif, kale chips and hoops.
Let's talk hair. Until you cut your hair this year, you hadn't had a haircut in two years?
KG: I think it might have been longer than that. The last time I had it cut was probably the beginning of my junior year of high school. Me and a teammate made an agreement that we weren't going to cut our hair until we won a state championship. That was at the beginning of my junior year, and we ended up winning that year. I was, like, 'Well, if it worked this time, I'm just going to keep it up until next season.' Then I got here and just kind of kept it going. It never (bothered me). People behind me in class would play with my hair sometimes. Other than that, it was fine.
How important is hair to you?
KG: For a small period of time, I kind of thought that it was part of my image. That's kind of how people knew me. As I've grown up, I've just kind of fallen out of that. I haven't really thought about that as much. I cut it a couple months ago. It was my choice. I was a little bit (nervous). When I first got it cut, it looked like probably about as long as Larry Austin Jr.'s hair last year. Then I took a shower and it got wet and it grew back out a little bit. I'm probably going to let it go for a little bit again. I'll get it cut eventually.
Your parents worked in the music industry, but you say you have no musical talent. Cruel twist of fate?
KG: Honestly, I don't think my dad (David Gates) has musical talent either, so I feel like I inherited my dad's side of the genes when it comes to music. He was a producer, but he never sang or rapped or played instruments. My mom (Necia Gates, who was part of the group "For Real") sings just for fun. When we have a birthday, everyone will always ask her to sing "Happy Birthday."
Your mom owns a kale chip business. Do you like kale chips?
KG: Sometimes. I have to be in the mood for them. But I recommend them; I think they're good. It's just not something I'll eat every day. They're not salty. They don't taste like vegetables. I can't really describe how they taste, to be honest. It used to be a constant thing at home. They used to be everywhere, but now not as much. But I haven't been home in a minute. I like them more than a lot of potato chips, to be honest.
The best birthday gift you ever received was … a go-kart?
KG: I think I was 9 and I'd just moved back to Georgia. I put it on my wish list and my uncle (Dallas Austin) ended up getting it for me. My uncle has gates in front of his house, and I just remember somebody driving it and I was, like, 'Oh, that's so cool!' I didn't know it was for me. It was green and black. I rode it around my neighborhood all the time. I don't know if I still have it. When I got to high school, I don't think I rode it much anymore.
If you had to sum up your personality in three words, what would they be?
KG: I feel like I'm pretty nonchalant about a lot of things. I don't know how to put this in one word, but sometimes I talk without thinking. It just sounds dumb sometimes. For example, we (Kaiser, Edmond Sumner and Trevon Bluiett) forgot to pay our electricity bill (at our apartment). And Ed was, like, 'KG, I need $40.' I was, like, 'We can live without electricity.' He looked at me, like, 'KG, that means no heat, no showers, no lights.' I was, like, 'My bad. Let me get that 40 real quick.' And the last word to describe my personality would be 'goofy.'
Your major is undecided. What interests you?
KG: I like sports management and sports marketing. I want to do something with sports eventually, even when I'm playing basketball. I've also looked into communications for a minute. I have to declare at the end of this year.
Strength coach Matt Jennings singled you out as a player who lived in the weight room this summer. What did you hope to get out of the extra work?
KG: I just kind of wanted to make the most of my opportunity. We have two summer sessions and some people choose to stay for the first one because the second one is mandatory. I thought if I stayed on campus I would be able to have a gym right next to me for the whole summer, pretty much. I felt like that could elevate my game and allow me to work on stuff I wasn't able to work on back at home. And I wanted to get stronger so I could help contribute to the team more this year.
One of your best attributes is 3-point shooting. Your length makes you a post player, but do you consider yourself guard-like?
KG: I just like to play basketball. I feel like the game is becoming almost label-less, because you have guards posting up smaller guards, you have bigs taking other bigs to the perimeter, you have centers shooting threes. I don't care if I'm considered a guard or a big because I feel like everyone does a little bit of everything at some point.