Gilchrist found right fit with Maryland
All it took was one official visit.
Gus Gilchrist had no idea that he’d visit College Park this past weekend and enjoy himself enough to become a Terp.
“Well I didn’t really know if I was going to [commit] to Maryland or not, but I took the visit because they were interested,” Gilchrist said. “When I met the coaching staff and watched them practice with the flex offense, I knew I could be good with them.”
On Sunday, Gilchrist made it official, offering a verbal commitment to the Terrapins’ coaching staff. Gilchrist picked the Terps over interest from Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.
Gilchrist -- a four-star center/power forward -- originally signed a Letter of Intent to play basketball at Virginia Tech, where he would’ve been a freshman now.
But according to Terrelle Woody, Gilchrist’s longtime trainer/mentor, the shootings on the Blacksburg campus last April caused the 6-foot-10, 235-pound big man to reevaluate things.
“When the shootings happened, they really spooked him out,” Woody said. “Once they spooked him out ... Gus and his parents talked to [Virginia Tech] coach [Seth] Greenberg and told him they didn’t want to go this year. He wanted to sit out, go to prep school and then come back the next year after all the things blew over. ... The coach felt that he recruited him and Gus needed to come there now, but myself and his parents thought he should feel comfortable. ... Once he wasn’t supported, he changed his mind about the whole thing. ... He did want to go to school there. He really liked the school.”
When asked about the Virginia Tech situation, Gilchrist declined to rehash the past, saying he was entirely “focused on Maryland.”
While becoming a Terp was far from a certainty (or, at some times, a possibility), the match between Gilchrist and Gary Williams’ brand of basketball has been described by more than a few observers as “perfect,” thanks in large part to UM’s flex offense.
During his senior year of high school at Progressive Christian Academy in Camp Springs, Gilchrist had the opportunity to face a regular slate of high school opponents, but also a collection of prep school teams. Woody coached Progressive’s prep school contests, running the flex offense. Against prep school opponents, Gilchrist averaged approximately 27 points and 14 rebounds per game.
“I always kind of played the flex offense growing up,” Gilchrist said. “I remember early in AAU growing up, I was probably 9 when I started learning it.”
Gilchrist’s knowledge, experience and skill set make his play and the offense an ideal fit.
“I’m a versatile, perimeter post player,” Gilchrist said. “I can score inside and out and play defense.”
Damon Handon, the general manager of D.C. Assault -- Gilchrist’s AAU team -- is in agreement that Gilchrist and Maryland’s system are a good match. Handon, who has watched Gilchrist develop since he joined D.C. Assault at age 14, thinks his former star has the potential to start for the Terps at the power forward or center spot from “day one.”
“What [Maryland is] getting in Gus is a physical inside presence,” Handon said “He can step out and make the 17-foot jump shot. He has great size. He has gotten so much better over the last two years, so I think that’ll continue when he gets to college. His upside is just tremendous. [He’s] a kid that is physically ready right now.”
“He’s an inside-outside player. He can score around the basket. He’s multi-dimensional. One aspect of his game [that can improve] is the ability to rebound the basketball, but I’m quite sure that’ll come. But right now he’s very polished offensively. This is a kid who has made some really big strides.”
Gilchrist is set to matriculate to College Park during the winter semester. He’ll begin practicing with the team immediately, but it’s still up in the air as to whether he’ll suit up for the Terps this season, or wait to make his Comcast Center debut during the 2008-09 season.
“Well, I really haven’t even talked to the coaches about that,” Gilchrist said. “So there will be time for that.
“It’s pretty much even,” he said when asked whether he’d like to redshirt or play immediately. “If I had a preference, I’d let you know, but it’s really 50/50 right now.”
Right now, Gilchrist is using his free time to get more prepared for college basketball. Woody has worked Gilchrist hard, putting him through weight training, agility workouts, speed and stamina exercises, and of course, lots and lots of basketball.
Gilchrist is also getting his mind prepared for the rigors of a college education. When he’s not working out or spending time with family and friends, Gilchrist’s face can often be found buried in a book. He’s currently enjoying the John Howard Griffin classic Black Like Me.
In addition to his affinity for literature, Gilchrist -- a 3.5 student in high school -- is eager to explore some of Maryland’s business school offerings.
“[Education is] very important,” Gilchrist said. “The fact that Maryland has one of the best business schools in America -- that’s a field that I’d like to get into.
“I’m just really excited to start school. It feels great [to be committed to Maryland]. I’m relieved that I found a school that’s the right school for me all around, for basketball and education.”