Duquesne forward L.G. Gill broke out of his freshman shell Saturday with a 19-point effort in 20 minutes off the bench in an 83-71 victory against Rhode Island.
After his first shot rimmed out, everything seemed to click into place. Gill hit his seven remaining shots, including five 3-pointers, and bested his previous season-high by 12 points.
“I don’t know, man,” Gill said, laughing. “I was just on.”
Gill’s full name is actually Charles A. Gill Jr., but his aunt gave him the nickname “Little Gill” as a baby, “and it just stuck,” Gill said.
It’s a bit of a misnomer now, too. “Little Gill” stands 6 feet 7, weighs 210 pounds and wears size 17 shoes, surpassing “Big Gill,” his 6-6 father, Charles.
Saturday was the pinnacle of a roller coaster freshman season for Gill.
After averaging 14.1 points and 8.3 rebounds for Benedictine College Preparatory in Richmond, Va., last season, Gill was forced out of his natural, wing position to double as a big man due to the Dukes’ limited frontcourt depth.
“It was a huge adjustment, especially strength-wise,” Gill said.
It didn’t help, either, that Gill, a potent perimeter shooter in high school, had gone ice cold. Until a resurgence the past three games, Gill had hit just eight of 39 3-point attempts (.205).
Gill said he carves out time each night to put up extra shots in the gym, and “if you’re putting in extra work and your shot just isn’t falling, it’s really disappointing.”
In the past three games, Gill has seen a bump in his minutes (18 per game) and has hit seven of 12 3-point attempts.
“With shooters, we always talk about confidence, especially nowadays when kids are so fragile,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “You’ve got to keep instilling the confidence that there’s a reason you’re here, and there’s a reason we recruited you. We have confidence in you. We’ll allow you to keep shooting.
“People think I’m crazy to let somebody shoot 3s who has been shooting 22 percent all year. But he’s not just a shooter, either.”
Gill said Ferry encouraged him to shoot his way out of his slump. After Gill missed his first shot against Rhode Island, Ferry told him to try again. Later in the game, he drew up plays to get Gill open in the corner.
“[Ferry] tells everyone on our team to keep doing what you do best,” Gill said. “One of the things I do is shoot the ball well. I’m glad I have coach that has confidence in me.”
Duquesne (11-13, 3-8 Atlantic 10) certainly would have been better off had Gill and fellow freshman Desmond Ridenour emerged immediately as scorers, but they have been productive off the bench and made visible progress.
“It’s hard being a freshman coming into such a good league where there’s so many good basketball players,” Ferry said. “It’s a league made up of a lot of seniors and juniors, and it’s helpful for our freshmen to come in and really be who they are.”
Ferry said Gill has had a “typical freshman year,” one with its share of frustration and inconsistency, and maturation comes at different rates for freshmen.
“He’s been starting to come on over the last couple of basketball games with his toughness and aggressiveness,” Ferry said. “Saturday was an accumulation of everything, where he really got in a rhythm, shot the ball well, finished around the basket a little bit, and he played with some aggressiveness.
“Hopefully, he sees the light now and can really start contributing more for us off the bench.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.