Anton Gill won’t be helping Ravenscroft defend its NCISAA state 3A basketball title this fall.
Instead, he’ll be spending most of the year in uniform.
The 6-foot-3 rising senior guard, who has committed to play for Louisville when his high school career ends, will play on the post-graduate team for Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.
Gill said he loved playing for Kevin Billerman’s Ravens, who won the TISAC regular-season and tournament titles all three years he was on the team. He just wants one year of higher-level competition to get ready for the wars in the Big East.
“(Hargrave) recruits and looks for the best players,” said Gill, who will be joining 6-foot-6-inch forward and Wake Forest commit Greg McClinton from Winston-Salem along with uncommitted 6-foot-6-inch Dante Clark from Charlotte and point guard Darren Black of Concord as the seniors on the Tigers’ post-grad team. “My dad (former ECU star Anton Gill) and I talked about it a little during the season.
“After we played in the ESPN Tournament in D.C., against Montrose Christian (losing 64-48 in the first round) and seeing how much bigger and more physical they were, I thought maybe a prep school would be the way to go to get me ready to play college ball.”
Gill said getting up early to wear perfectly polished shoes and standing at attention in the face of loud commands will be a totally new experience, but it’s all for a better cause.
“I’m sure it’s going to take me a while to get used to it – I’ll say that,” Gill said. “But if I need to do it one year to get where I want to be later in life, I’ll do that.”
His time at Ravenscroft
Veteran Ravens coach Billerman said Gill’s decision to leave his team carried no acrimony.
“Any time you lose a kid who played for you for three years it’s a big loss,” Billerman said. “He has innate knowledge of your system and what’s expected and how he can lead the younger players. We wish Anton and his family the best. He’s been a great team member for us.
“Anton is an exceptional player because he’s driven to be really good and has worked extremely hard. And I think some of the things that have driven that have been the fact that his dad was an outstanding player and that Anton since a very young age has been driven to be good.”
With the exception of a missing seven weeks in the spring of his sophomore year with a stress fracture to his foot, Gill had a charmed high school career. During his three years with the program, the Ravens went 78-14, won this year’s NCISAA 3A title as well as their bracket in the Holiday Invitational in 2011, and the then-GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational in 2010.
Gill averaged 17 points over his second and third seasons with the Ravens after averaging 7.5 as a freshman. He averaged 2.4 assists and 1.3 steals last season.
A regimented schedule
Hargrave coach A.W. Hamilton said Gill will be getting plenty of attention from small class sizes in Chatham as well.
“We’re trying to get them ready for college with academics and basketball and the military aspect,” Hamilton said. “We get up at 6:15 and they’ve got to clean their rooms and make their beds. We march to breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the academic piece is through the roof with small classes, and we have two hours of study hall every evening.”
Hamilton said he expects Gill to make a big contribution to his squad, which finished 38-1 last season.
“I’ve been watching Anton for the last couple of the years on the AAU circuit and seeing Ravenscroft,” Hamilton said. “He’s had a tremendous career. I love him, and he’s going to be a great player, and more importantly he’s a great kid that works extremely hard.
“He can really get to the rim and is a really good shooter. He’ll be a better shooter as he continues to develop. He’s explosive, and he’s a great teammate.”
Plans for future
Gill said he has watched fellow high schoolers commit to one college program and then change their minds at the last minute, but said his commitment to the Cardinals is rock solid.
“My relationship with Coach (Rick) Pitino is really good,” Gill said. “He always told me what I needed to work on and what I could do to get better. I always admired that. I talked to my mom and dad and ended up committing Dec. 21. I had offers from Miami, Xavier, N.C. State, Wake Forest – Carolina was close to offering – Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Oklahoma State, Florida State, South Carolina. But I never really made a list. I just liked my relationship with Coach Pitino and his staff.
“It definitely made it easier to commit to a coach who’s on TV all the time and a future Hall of Famer. I knew I’d have a chance to do big things with his program. My commitment is absolutely firm.”
As for this summer’s activities, he’ll continue playing for the Garner Road Bulldogs along with Bryan, Copeland, UNC commit Isaiah Hicks of Oxford, among others.
He said he tries to watch and learn from everything Kobe Bryant and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s James Harden do on the basketball floor.
“I really like Kobe’s footwork,” Gill said. “He makes everything look effortless. He’s able to get to spots on the floor with minimal effort. And I really like James because he’s left-handed like me, he’s athletic and he can finish. He doesn’t have many holes in his game. I’m just going to continue to work and hope someday I get a chance to play at that level.
“But the chance to go to the Final Four is something I’d never want to skip. It’s a big piece of the puzzle. My dad tells me all the time that college is some of the best years of your life, especially when you’re playing basketball. I want to be the best I can be at every level and approach it the same way I did high school.”