March 9, 2004
By Elizabeth Schaeffer
Before Shami Gill knew anything about basketball, his family was preparing him for success on the court by imparting their rock hard work ethic. Growing up in Canada, his father and mother were strong forces in his upbringing and emphasized the importance of working hard. Gill admits that he has no real slogan or motto that he lives by, but he believes firmly in what his parents have taught him, "Hard work, just hard work...make sure you give it your all and eventually your hard work will start paying off."
Shami recounts that his older brother Happy and a few cousins introduced him to basketball when he was eight or nine, and he then began devoting more time to the game. Other than basketball, Shami dabbled in many sports including baseball, football, and ice hockey, but began favoring basketball when he entered the ninth grade. During his teen years, he established a desire for the competitive aspect of the sport.
Gill helped out with the family business until this competitive edge pushed all things non-basketball out of the picture. Instead of working a regular job, Shami devoted his time to improving his game by attending summer basketball tournaments and exhibition games.
Gill realized after the start of his junior year at Mission Secondary School (Mission, British Columbia) that he wanted to earn an athletic scholarship. Upon the close of his senior year while attending Philip Pocock High School (Toronto), his drive and dedication paid off. He dwarfed the competition, averaging 24 points and 18 rebounds per game, drawing the attention of college recruiters from all over the nation.
Over all the various colleges vying for his commitment, Shami accepted a scholarship from the Washington State University men's basketball team. His parents and older brother have supported his decision all the way and have developed a real passion for the sport throughout Shami's athletic career.
"They've always wanted to do what's best for me, they left a lot of the decision making of where I wanted to go to school with me," Gill said. He added that his father and brother are quite serious at games, but his mother tries to hide her emotion when her son is on the court.
While in college, his work ethic has only grown stronger through the course of experiencing the delicate balance between his commitment to both academics and athletics. Because he knows the effort it takes to make the transition from high school to college as an athlete, his advice to incoming athletes is, "Learn how to manage your time, because you're going to have lots of school work, especially during the season."
Gill has played three years now for Washington State University, consistently contributing to the improvement of the team since his true freshman debut in 2001-02. Although he has definitely proven has the determination it takes to be a key contributor, he still acknowledges that he always has areas to improve himself. In doing so, he gravitates towards those people who inspire him through their own hard work and perseverance. For instance, about Thomas Kelati, with whom Gill is a close friend, Gill says, "He is always working hard, and always pushing me to work hard."
WSU Head Coach Dick Bennett is another person who challenges Gill to work hard, to focus his thoughts on the defensive game, a task that can be too intense for some to face.
"Last spring when he (Bennett) came in, we started doing individual workouts," Gill recalls. "A change started happening then. He wanted us to play a lot of defense, good defense." Shami doesn't seem to have any disagreements with that kind of challenge.
Coach Bennett relates about his junior forward, "His greatest asset is he will do anything to help our team. He has a servant's mentality. You need those type of people in your program."
Besides loving his role on the men's basketball team, Gill has great things to say about Washington State University. He loves the supportive hometown atmosphere that always seems to be missing in the larger college towns. His close relationship with his family really is the only negative part of going away to college, and he always looks forward to spending as much time with them as possible in his time off.
Gill has done a great job of representing Washington State University as a student and as an athlete. This year he has started all 25 games, is leading the team in rebounds, and is ranked 15th in the same category for the Pac-10 conference. Cougar basketball fans should look forward to seeing his vital and numerous contributions to the team next season as a senior.
As for his plans after college, Gill states, "Whatever opportunity presents itself, I am going to pursue." He is confident that his hard work will be what opens doors for him, and whatever he does pursue, will be achieved to the best of his abilities.