When Robert Carter Jr. announced he was leaving the Maryland basketball program to pursue an NBA Career last April, the Terps had a hole to fill. Unlike with center Diamond Stone’s departure, where Maryland had Damonte Dodd ready to be a starter, the team didn’t have a single power forward with experience.
So when Maryland’s coaches saw this tweet by Duquesne forward L.G. Gill, they acted fast.
I will be graduating from Duquesne University and using my last year of basketball eligibility else where.— LG (@cgill10) April 5, 2016
Not long after Gill tweeted that out, he got a call from Maryland assistant coach Dustin Clark.
The same night he talked to coach Clark, he heard from Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon, who said he wanted to come out to Duquesne and meet him.
“I was so impressed with how bad they wanted me,” Gill told Testudo Times. “I could just see that from day one.”
Gill made his final decision 20 days later, choosing the Terps over a list of schools that reportedly included Marquette, Texas, Iowa State and East Carolina. Maryland finally had the power forward it sorely needed.
“L.G. was a must-get for us.,” Turgeon said. “We had to have him once Robert came in and told me he was going. I said before, ‘I recruited him like he was Kevin Durant.’ We had to have him, and he’s been terrific.”
Now, Gill isn’t going to be Kevin Durant for the Terps, but they don’t need him to be.
He’s the latest in a long line of graduate transfers at Maryland that started with Logan Aaronholt, a sharpshooter who came to the Terps from Albany in 2012. Rasheed Sulaimon, Maryland’s highest-profile transfer, came to the team from Duke last season
“I was obviously looking for the right fit, but at the same time I did look into [Turgeon’s] past success with grad transfers, like obviously Rasheed, Rashaud Pack,” Gill said.
“That’s definitely something I looked into, because I was like, ‘I can follow in their footsteps.’”
Duquesne went 42-53 in Gill’s four years there, with last season’s 17-17 record easily the best of the three.
“I’ve been losing for three years,” he said, “and after you lose for a while you get tired of it. You just really wanna win.”
Gill’s in a better situation at Maryland. The Terps have made the NCAA Tournament two years in a row, though a third March Madness trip is far from guaranteed with this young roster.
A new role
Gill averaged 10.1 points and 30 minutes per game last year at Duquesne, an increase from the 6.9 and 20 minutes he averaged as a sophomore. At Maryland, his role will be something in between those two.
At 6’8, 230 pounds, Gill isn’t the biggest power forward ever, but he certainly has enough size to play the position in the Big Ten. He’ll be relied upon a little more for his inside scoring and rebounding at Maryland than he was at Duquesne, since the Terps are already full of three-point shooters.
“In the past I was taking too many threes,” Gill said after the team’s open practice in October. “I was settling, so that’s one of the things I’ve been working on: get the easy points inside. A couple times today I passed up a couple open threes because that was the best play for the team, but if I’m wide open I’ll let it fly. It’s something I still have in my arsenal.”
Gill also enters a role as an elder member of a group he only recently joined. Transfers Robert Carter Jr. and Sulaimon stepped up as leaders on last year’s team, but the dynamic is different this year, with Dodd the team’s only other senior.
“It took some time getting used to, because for myself personally I’m still trying to get acquainted with everyone, trying to learn the system,” Gill said. “But every day it’s getting better. I’m getting used to the system, getting used to playing with the team.”
It’s unreasonable to expect Gill to be a star this season, but asking him to replicate his 7.1 points per game career average doesn’t sound too outrageous.
The Terps need him even more than they thought they would.
Gill came to Maryland as part of a rotation that included sophomore Ivan Bender and freshman Justin Jackson, but the grad transfer figured to lead for playing time. Bender only averaged 4.3 minutes per game last year, and Jackson’s a freshman still adapting to a different role.
Still, Gill wasn’t even guaranteed to be a starter at Maryland. Turgeon touted Bender as his “most improved player” a few weeks ago, but the Croatian forward will be out with a fractured wrist to start the season. That cemented Gill’s spot as a starter, and makes his presence even more important.
Mark Turgeon won’t need him to be a star. He just needs Gill to be a vital part of a team that lacks a true veteran presence.