A year ago, Maryland senior forward L.G. Gill was finishing his third and most successful season at Duquesne.
Averaging 30 minutes a game, Gill played the small and power forward positions for the Dukes, creating scoring mostly from the perimeter; he shot 154 threes during the 2015-16 season. Gill averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 boards per game for a Duquesne team that finished 17-17 on the year. For Gill, it was the third straight year of not making the NCAA Tournament.
Gill completed his undergraduate studies at Duquesne in three years and opted to seek another school at which to spend his senior year. He committed to Maryland in May, part of an active month for the Terps; freshman forward Justin Jackson committed and star junior guard Melo Trimble withdrew from the NBA Draft later in the month.
About 10 months later, Gill is set to be one of two Terps honored at Senior Day when Maryland takes on Michigan State March 4. He's part of a winning team for the first time in his collegiate career; the Terps are 23-7 overall and 11-6 in the Big Ten with the postseason looming, while Duquesne's 17-17 record in his junior year was the best record they had during his three years there.
"I came in and one of the things I wanted to do was be able to play in the NCAA Tournament and I'm pretty sure that's what I'm going to be able to do this year, so that's pretty much what I'm going to be happy about," Gill said at Maryland's media availability March 3.
Maryland is currently tied for second in the Big Ten, and Terps head coach Mark Turgeon said "It's guys like L.G. that help you do it." Gill started the second game of the season at Georgetown Nov. 15, but hasn't started since, with Jackson handling those duties. Gill is one of seven players to have played in all 30 games so far, but his 13 minutes a game are down from his days at Duquesne.
Gill has also been tasked with changing his role. Instead of being a stretch four, he's played with his back to the basket some on the offensive end, proving adept at setting up on the left block, backing down and spinning toward the middle of the paint and finishing a left-handed hook. Only eight of his 76 shots have been threes.
He's also had to play the center spot in addition to the four despite his undersized frame; he's listed at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds. Maryland's dealt with injuries at center all year; junior forward Michal Cekovsky, who's out for the year, missed chunks of the season on three separate occasions and senior forward Damonte Dodd missed time with a concussion and sprained MCL. Gill said one of the challenges of the center spot was learning the defensive aspect "because the center's obviously guarding more ball screens than the fours do."
"There's a lot of things this kid's done to really help this team. He's had to do things that we didn't talk about when we recruited him, and he's handled it in stride and he's handled it with great grace and maturity," Turgeon said. "And I'll say it again: That's why we're winning, because of guys like L.G. They just give it up for the team. We have a lot of guys doing that."
Gill played 16 minutes in a 79-59 victory at Rutgers Feb. 28, helping the Terps snap a three-game losing streak with a 10-point effort on 4-of-4 shooting. Gill finished off an alley-oop courtesy of freshman guard Kevin Huerter in the second half, showing off his athleticism. Turgeon said Gill is "playing his best basketball right now" -- just in time after a season of adjusting for the good of the Terps.
"Once I just took a breath of fresh air, kind of just relaxed and then I could just focus on the court, because at one point I was just thinking way too much, trying to learn all the plays," Gill said. "But once I kind of just settled in and got more comfortable, everything just became second nature."
-Maryland takes on Michigan State March 4 in the final regular season game for each team, though it's the first time the two squads have faced each other this season. Michigan State (18-12 overall, 10-7 in the Big Ten) lost at Illinois March 1, but has won four of its last six games and six of its last eight, a solid late-season run typical of a Tom Izzo-coached team. The Spartans' top scorers are freshmen Miles Bridges (16.5 points per game) and Nick Ward (13.4).
Purdue, at 13-4 in the Big Ten, has clinched the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which begins March 8 in Washington, D.C. Maryland, Minnesota and Wisconsin all have a conference record of 11-6, with Northwestern and Michigan State at 10-7. The Terps can clinch a double bye in the tournament with a victory over the Spartans.
"Honestly, I think [March 2] we had probably one of the best practices we had all year. I think everybody's into it, everybody understands what's at stake -- especially tomorrow," freshman point guard Anthony Cowan said. "And I think everybody's just ready for one final big push and send our seniors out the right way."