We continue our season preview coverage with Texas A&M G Admon Gilder. If history is any guide, being named Gatorade Texas Basketball Player of the Year is a solid rung on the ladder toward the NBA. Previous winners from just the past decade include De’Aaron Fox/Justise Winslow/Marcus Smart…and Gilder (the 2015 winner). As a freshman he played in the record-setting NCAA tourney come-from-way-behind 2-OT victory over Northern Iowa, as a sophomore he was #2 in the SEC with 34.6 minutes/game, and last year he led the Aggies in 3P%/FT%. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Admon about destroying North Carolina in the NCAA tourney last March and recovering from a knee injury last season.
You play for Coach Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have learned from him? He is 1 of those coaches who cares about each individual on his team/staff from the star player all the way down to the team manager. He has maintained his faith throughout his life and taught me to do so even during difficult times. On the court he is very encouraging and always stays in your ear.
In the 2016 NCAA tourney you scored 11 PTS in 38 minutes off the bench in a 4-PT 2-OT win over Northern Iowa: how on earth were you able to overcome a 12-PT deficit with 44 seconds left in regulation? We worked together as a team and had great senior leaders. Things just happened so quick. We were very talented and our freshmen combined with our seniors to make anything possible.
Take me through the 2018 postseason:
In the SEC tourney you had 15 PTS/3 STL but Collin Sexton drove the length of the court and hit a floater at the buzzer in a 1-PT win by Alabama: where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? I took that 1 to heart because I take pride in playing hard on the defensive end: I think that I could have done a little more to stop him. It is probably at the top of my list because of where we were trying to get to, but everything the following week worked out in our favor.
In the NCAA tourney you had a 21-PT win over #2-seed North Carolina before losing to eventual national runner-up Michigan: what did you learn from that tourney run that will help you this year? I learned not to get my hopes up. Everyone is in the NCAA tourney for a reason and we had gotten on our high horses after the North Carolina game. We were not completely prepared for the Michigan game so we just have to stay in the moment.
You started 0 games as a freshman but started 29 games during each of the past 2 seasons: what is the biggest difference between being a starter vs. coming off the bench? Just timing. Everyone is trying to rush when they get to college and thinks about starting/starting/starting but you just have to stay patient. I encourage our younger guys because the mentality is about making every minute meaningful: what is most important is not who starts the game but who finishes the game.
You missed 5 games last year with a knee injury: how is your health at the moment? I am getting better each and every day. It was a big summer for me both mentally/physically to learn what I can do. It is important to take care of your body both on and off the court and I am getting close to 100%. If I keep God in my life then everything else will be all right.
You have finished in the top-10 in the SEC in SPG during each of the past 2 years: what is the key to playing good defense? Taking pride in it! A lot of guys are just fixated on offense/offense/offense but when you can stop your opponent from scoring it can take a lot out of them. I make sure to practice it every time I work out and use my athleticism to keep my opponent in front of me.
You have a pair of great defensive forwards in Christian Mekowulu (2018 OVC DPOY at Tennessee State)/Josh Nebo (2017 NEC DPOY at St. Francis PA): how are the transfers blending in with the returning guys as you try to form a dominant defensive team? We are all connecting really well even though we have a lot of new guys this year. We are bonding more and more each day: those 2 guys are like me in that they also take pride at the defensive end. A lot of guys sleep on Josh’s ability to protect the rim but I feel confident in both of them. Savion Flagg is also important: he is a big guard who can defend smaller guards and help us play faster as we try to be the toughest team out there.
Your non-conference schedule includes games against Gonzaga/Boston College/Kansas State: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? Every game is my biggest test as a senior because this is my last go-round. However, the Gonzaga game is the day after my birthday so I will definitely have a circle around that 1.
You are 1 of 4 seniors on the roster: how crucial will all of that experience be to your team’s success (especially after losing so many great big men from last year’s team including Tyler Davis/DJ Hogg/Robert Williams)? It will be crucial: senior leaders make things easier for all the coaches because they can lead both vocally and by example. If a coach is not connecting well with a player then we can step in and show them the right way to fight together. You can always be a better leader to be the best teammate you can be.
What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? People ask me that all the time but my only goal is to win as many games as possible and play for a national championship. I also want to be as healthy as possible because I know that I can help us win when I take care of my body and eliminate all the distractions.