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January 11, 2012

Gill pursuing unique path

Basketball players usually get placed on a poster because of some dramatic or acrobatic achievement captured on the court. Cosumnes River College big Tony Gill is taking a different route to poster-dom.

Gill,a sophomore, has bettered his game and body being in Coach James Giacomazzi's basketball program and will make his D-I college of choice based on fit and relationships. -- nothing dramatically different there.

But he is also planning on eventually attending medical school.

The trailblazing of sorts is because he also believes that being in a pre-med program at a college or university at the next level or having attended a community college is a not a necessity for earning entry into the schooling that will result in achievement of another of his goals, becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

That's what offers him poster student/poster player status -- the combination of wanting to be a doctor and the somewhat untraditional path chosen.

Yes, the 6-foot-9 Gill is different, different good.

Turning to basketball, when asked about his best basketball skills, he replied "I'd say my basketball IQ and ability to shoot the three."

There's that uniqueness again.

He explained, "I grew up playing as a small forward before I got a growth spurt."

Gill also offered, "I've always been a huge fan of basketball and watched a lot of tapes, like the Pete Newell Big Man series. It was important to know where to be and when to be there plus why each player is where they are at."

A telling quote about his hoops inquisitiveness that carries over into life itself: "I love how much you have to think on your feet in basketball."

He sees his parents as his biggest basketball influence even though neither played the game. "It's because they taught me that if I wanted to do something then put 100% effort into it and do it with a purpose."

Gill, who earned all-state honors as a senior at Oakmont High recalls his best basketball moment as "playing at ARCO Arena for the section championship -- not many people get that experience and it will never leave me. I'm so thankful."

When his prep days were concluding "I felt the need to mature physically and mentally." While checking out Cosumnes River College, "I felt an instant connection with Coach Giacomazzi and felt it was the place for me to succeed and move on."

That has paid dividends across the spectrum.

"I now have a better understanding of what it takes [as a student and a basketball player]. I worked on my body and lost 25 pounds -- I started eating right. I've learned post skills and I'm working on becoming a better defender. Plus, I learned how to lead now as a sophomore."

Additionally, Gill said "in high school, I didn't put in the effort I needed to into academics. That's why junior college has been such a help. I gained perspective and learned what I wanted in life, especially when basketball ends."

Here's Coach Giacomazzi on his player: "I talk to four-year coaches everyday and the one thing I always say about Tony is that he is a head coaches dream. He is a great kid, a terrific student, a heck of a player, and has not caused one problem in over two years of knowing him. Coming out of high school when we were recruiting him, he was getting interest from D-II schools but he wanted the opportunity to play D-1. It's exciting to see young men work hard for their dream and now the question is where/not if he will earn a D-1 scholarship as he's being recruited by the likes of Boston College, Long Beach State, UC-Riverside, Cal Poly and many others. It speaks well for him as a player and person and for our program that he has gotten better and committed himself to working hard every day. There are no short cuts to full D-1 scholarships -- we showed him what to do but in the end he got it done."

Gill debated it but eventually chose not to sign last November, deciding instead to put his name on the dotted line come this April.

"I want to find a fit with basketball and academics," he said. "I'm being looked at as a trail four, a power forward who can pick and pop. I've been a scorer all my life, winning is most important for me."

About his medical school plans, Gill said, "I live for sports. I want to work with athletes and I think I can relate to them as patients."

Tony Gill, poster person -- different and delightfully so.


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