CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Stefan Gill has gone from high-flying circus act to mainstream recognition. But he won’t be turning his back on the streetball scene time soon.

It was at summer basketball tournaments across the UK that Stefan Gill made a name for himself. The 5′ 8″ guard wowed crowds from Brixton to Birmingham as he literally jumped over people’s heads en route to thunderous dunks. His hops even had him touring Europe with the infamous Slam Nation crew for a while.

But those who thought he’d be “just a streetballer” for the rest of his life are eating their words after the Manchester Magic baller was named England Basketball Division One Player Of The Year.

The high-flying little man averaged 24 points, 4 boards and 4 assists a game this season. And just days after scooping EB’s top individual accolade, he helped the Magic win the playoffs – their first victory in six straight finals games appearances.

“You only get to be in so many finals in your career – and to be in so many and always be the bridesmaid is very, very frustrating,” he told FadeAway.

“But I finally, finally got there. I’d been working hard for that all summer, so it’s been good to actually get that.”

As well as the work he put in before the season started, Stefan credits a stint playing in Denmark in 2008 with honing his offensive skills.

“That fuelled me to become more of a scoring guard,” he says. “When I went over there, I was replacing an American they had who’d got injured – and he was their leading scorer. So when they asked me to come, they asked if I could average 25 a game. So it really did help my game, because all the offenses were run for me.”

Denmark was Stefan’s first experience of playing overseas – and one he fully enjoyed.

“I loved it out there. I loved the lifestyle of being a professional – doing something that you love for a living. It’s something people dream about.”

But, alas, it couldn’t last.

“My contract started out for just two weeks but they kept extending it. But I was at university at the time, and only deferred for one semester, so I had to come back and finish my studies.”

Stefan graduates in July – but he’s already working for Manchester City Council and the Magic, coaching school kids in the area, as well as putting his physiotherapy degree to good use at a local clinic. But he’s still got his eye on taking his game to a higher level – though he reckons he needs to do it quickly.

“I’m 26 and it feels like I need to hurry up. I’d like to see myself taking it further – past Division One to a BBL or European side – and trying to aim for a GB situation at some point.”

So now he’s all “fundamental”, is the man they call “Matrix” going to stop doing his thing at the summer streetball events?

“No way!” he insists. “The summer events are what made me in the first place. I didn’t get my reputation from being a fundamental player, so that’s always going to be in me.”

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login