Gill-Caesar shines for Tigers

MU's Gill-Caesar

FEBRUARY 2015 – Montaque “Teki” Gill-Caesar is eager to shine on the big stage.

In fact, the top prospect was so eager to get started that he jumped into Missouri’s recruiting class a year early.

Gill-Caesar, a 6-6 shooting guard, was considered a Top 50 recruit for the class of 2015 before reclassifying a year early to sign with the Tigers in August.

“There was no point to going back to high school,” Gill-Caesar said.  “I had an opportunity here, now.  I can move forward at a faster rate at Mizzou.”

The chance to play for a major college program in a top conference was too inviting.

“It was an opportunity for me on a big stage,” he said.  “I knew they could make me better.”

surplusexchange.orgGill-Caesar also shared coach Kim Anderson’s vision for building the Tigers hoops program.

“He’s a coach I trusted,” he said.  “He has the same goals to turn the face of the program around and creating a new identity for the program, being a winning school, bringing that back.”

The search for bigger challenges is nothing new for Gill-Caesar.  Originally from Vaughan, Ontario, just outside of Toronto, he moved to Huntington, West Virginia after his freshman campaign in high school.

“I wanted better competition, to play against better people,” he said. “Everybody is trying to come down south.  I was trying to improve my game.”

While at Huntington Prep High School, where he was teammates with future Kansas freshman star Andrew Wiggins, Gill-Caesar helped the Fighting Irish reach the semifinals in the 2014 Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament. Huntington Prep went 28-5 overall last year, earning a No. 5 national ranking as Gill-Caesar averaged 16.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.7 steals per game to earn 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year honors in West Virginia.

After starring for Team Canada in the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championships and ranking second overall with a 19.6 points-per-game tournament scoring average, he followed Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford, to Mizzou.

The signing of the 31st-ranked Class of 2015 prospect was considered a coup for Anderson’s rebuilding program, particularly as Gill-Caesar had frequently been linked to rival SEC programs Kentucky and Alabama.

“Teki has all the tools to be a big-time talent over the course of his college career,” Anderson said.  “He will have an opportunity to come in and contribute right away.”

The freshman star has the length be a good rebounder and a defensive force.  He runs the break well and has scorer’s shooting touch even from beyond the arc.

His addition was particularly important to a Mizzou squad which lost three shooting guards to graduation and the NBA. With Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown going to the NBA, and Earnest Ross graduating, the Tigers lost 81 percent of their scoring and 63 percent of their rebounding from the 2013-14 team.

Gill-Caesar immediately began to fill the hole, leading Mizzou with 21 points and seven rebounds in the season-opening loss to UMKC.

He has continued to contribute strong performances as the team’s second-leading scorer with 10.8 points-per-game while adding 3.3 rebounds-per-game.  He started all 13 non-conference games before being forced to sit out the first three SEC contests due to back spasms.

Despite the Tigers slow conference start, his freshman year has been everything Gill-Caesar anticipated.

“It’s been what I expected,” he said.  “I have to be determined and disciplined, and be the same way every day.  I have to come to school and be the same, every day.  You have to do the same thing, get into a routine.”

Gill-Caesar’s routine has not disappointed. He ranks second in SEC freshmen scoring, trailing only Vanderbilt guard Riley LaChance.

He has drawn inspiration from his teammates, particularly the perseverance of senior forward Keanu Post.

“All of my teammates have influenced me in a different way,” he said.  “I think about Keanu.  Keanu wasn’t playing a lot and we would tell him work hard and your time will come.  He kept pushing, kept working. Now he’s starting. That’s what I look at.”

The results haven’t been everything Gill-Caesar had hoped for.  After winning their first conference game, in overtime, against LSU, Mizzou has dropped six straight SEC games, but that doesn’t faze him because he’s looking long term.

“This year is a rebuilding year,” he said. “I don’t want to make it seem we’re not focused on winning this year, but we’ve got to be realistic. We’re so young, but we’re capable. We all know what we’re capable of, and we’re starting with a young team.”

Anderson brought Gill-Caesar to Columbia with a long-range goal of success and the young star has confidence in that future.

“We’re going to get to where we need to go,” he said.

After scoring 16 points in a one-point loss to Arkansas, Gill-Caesar failed to score in the next game against top-ranked Kentucky and fouled out after only nine minutes on the court. He entered February, averaging 10.8 points per game.

Article by Marc Bowman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *