Oakmont's Gill quietly leads by example
It almost seemed like Tony Gill snuck into the spotlight, but for those who have seen him play, he leaves a lasting memory.
“I believe that Tony falls in line with a long line of Oakmont players,” said former Oakmont head coach Gary Donnell. “He is thoughtful, articulate, and humble. He is quietly working his way to adulthood and will continue to add to the lives of those with whom he comes in contact.”
Gill was not one of those players who stormed onto the high school scene. He did not even play AAU basketball until after his junior year at Oakmont, but instead played in the local recreational leagues and on school teams.
Perhaps a blessing, he was not always the big man on the floor.
“I was primarily a small forward/power forward (at Antelope Crossing Middle School) due to me being one of the smaller guys on our team,” Gill said. “Middle school is where I learned to play the perimeter and I was able to keep the things I learned as I my body grew bigger and I developed into a post player.”
Now, the 6-foot- 8 senior is equally comfortable in the post and on the perimeter and it has made him extremely difficult to guard.
“If you put someone smaller on him, he takes you inside and if you put someone bigger, he takes you outside for the three,” said Woodcreek coach Burnel Pinkerton. “He is a great shooter from any range. He has a whole bag of tricks both offensively and defensively.”
Gill says that family is the most important thing to him. His parents were both born in India and did not participate in organized sports, but they have instilled in their son a sense of family, humility and responsibility that has served him well in his athletic pursuits.
“I spend a lot of time with my family, not just my intermediate family but my cousins,” Gill said. “We have a really big family so we often spend weekends doing fun activities such as movie nights, going to the beach, skiing and snowboarding. You often see a lot of my family at my games.”
As a sophomore, Gill was called up to participate with the varsity for the 2008 playoffs, which ended after a first-round loss to Elk Grove.
“Even though I didn’t play in that game, I was terrified on the bench and as much as I wanted to go in I knew I was way too nervous especially looking at the size of the guys on the floor,” Gill said.
Those nerves are a thing of the past, as the senior put was the clear leader of this year’s highly successful Oakmont squad, which saw its season end Saturday in the Northern California semifinals.
“Tony is a definite leader on the team, said Oakmont coach Rick Campbell. “He makes everybody around him better. He draws a lot of attention from opposing defenses, but because he has great court vision and passing skills, he is able to find teammates for open shots and he is very unselfish.”
Donnell, who has been around the Oakmont basketball program for a long time, has noticed the maturity in Gill.
“He accepts coaching and is willing to be a leader on the floor,” Donnell said. “Tony embraces pressure, responding time and time again when he is called upon.”
Gill is still considering his options for next season. He has received some interest from a number of four-year schools, mostly at the Division II level. As he leaves Oakmont, his legacy will carry on with his frontcourt running mate, 6-6 junior J.T. Adenrele.
“I think of him like a little brother and he thinks of me as his big brother,” Gill said. “He has so much potential and I constantly remind him to work hard so he can make the best of his God-given talent. I can have a lot more fun when he is on the floor because it takes away some of my responsibility and it’s always fun to watch his crowd-pleasing blocks.”
“Together they are a special combination,” Campbell said. “We refer to them as Bounce (J.T. , because of his leaping ability) and Buttah (Tony, as in smooth like butter).”
Campbell has brought out the best in Gill, and the results showed on the court as the Vikings returned the roar to the gym on the Oakmont campus.
“He (Campbell) has believed in me since day one and knowing you have a man like him behind you and believing in you it makes things so much more joyful and easier,” Gill said. “He trusts me to take the big shot or trusts me to do pretty much anything, and with him believing in me the team starts to buy in and then I have everyone trusting me.”
Getting to know:
Tony Gill, Oakmont
Family: father- Kulwant Gill, mother- Surjit Gill and two sisters, Neeta age 26 and Parminder (Pinks) age 23. Parents were born in India.
Interesting fact: “I speak Punjabi fluently but I cannot write it.”
Role models: “My parents, no doubt about it. They have always been there for me through thick and thin, through the championships and also through all the heartbreak losses. I owe them everything and wouldn’t be who I am today without them.”
If not basketball, what sport?: “If I could be a professional athlete in any other sport besides basketball it would most likely be football. Unfortunately I am not the guy who likes to be in the torturing heat three hours a day every day over my summer vacation when I could be eating and sleeping.”
Pre-game: “Before every game I have to have a solid meal and a nap. If those two things don’t go as planned it might be a rough night.”
Free day with no other responsibilities?: “I would probably go sky diving. Something I’ve always wanted to do but my mom said she will never let me do.”
Strongest food you have tried? : “I’m usually a chicken guy but I would have to say the craziest thing I have ever tried was calamari. Not too exciting I know but it made me sick and I missed the next day of school because of it so I guess you can say that’s somewhat crazy.”
Sizing up Tony Gill
Gary Donnell has been around the Oakmont High campus and its basketball program for many years. Here is his list of the top inside/outside threat big men he has seen wear the Viking uniform over the years.
Jess Sitterud, 6-4, 1992 – “Wonderful shooting touch, powerful interior player who could handle like a guard and finish in a crowd.”
Whitney Brake, 6-6, 1994 – “Extremely skilled. Could play any position on the court. Led his class to a four year record of 94-13.”
Anthony Flood, 6-6, 1995 – “Same a Whitney, tenacious defender/rebounder. Record of 55-9 over his last two seasons at Oakmont. Once scored 17 straight points in a tournament final game.”
Sam Henning, 6-6 - “Every bit as tenacious as Anthony Flood, probably unselfish to a fault. Led his team to two consecutive NorCal playoffs.”
Tony Gill, 6-8 – “Highly skilled, terrific shooting touch with good range. He is patient in the post, and is supremely unselfish. He will find the open man. As a defender, he is long, and will change shots-he forces the shooter to adjust shots through good positioning, and staying long-going straight up.”