Graduate transfer Michael Gilmore is beginning his second stint on Broad Street after two years back home in the Sunshine State. The versatile forward and Florida native played under Shaka Smart in 2014-15 and Will Wade in 2015-16 before transferring to the University of Miami and then on to Florida Gulf Coast University in consecutive seasons. Gilmore had 12 points on 6 of 6 shooting from the field in VCU’s 85-81, NCAA Tournament Round of 32 loss to Buddy Hield and the Final Four-bound Sooners of the University of Oklahoma in 2016.
What brought you full circle?
Honestly, just leaving here I felt like I had to at some point just for my athletic career, and then coming back with the opportunity to further my education in grad school and play for a great guy in coach Rhoades, and then being familiar with the program, everything worked out.
Tell me about your time back home.
When I came down to making the deciding factors of where I wanted to transfer to, it came down to wanting to be back in Florida, obviously I’d be closer to my family. So then the University of Miami, a very great school, and then Florida Gulf Coast is a really good school as well, so I thought of those two schools because I had an offer and opportunity to go to both.
How does not having a football team make VCU unique, with the primary focus on basketball?
Obviously with no football team, the number one thing is basketball, and then Richmond itself just I feel like loves the community and their basketball team. You can really feel that in the fanbase and everytime you go to a home game it’s sold out. So with that just the environment , the atmosphere, the people around are actually invested, like from coaches, fans, whatever it may be.
All in all, this place (VCU) is one of a kind, really.
What do you remember from the Oklahoma game?
That was one of the most surprising things of my life. I mean, I felt like I worked hard for a lot of the stuff, but with that I was kind of down on myself going into the end of that year, just the way I was playing and everything. But I remember we were kind of struggling just to gather momentum with our toughness, they were kind of bigger than us, the moment was kind of bigger than us.
I was just able to evaluate, see a lot of openings, and I trusted my teammates and trusted myself and that gave me the opportunity so I just made shots and tried to play as hard as I could to keep that year going.
It didn’t seem like the moment was bigger than you in that circumstance.
(Laughs) No, it wasn’t but I mean it was a really good game all in all. The atmosphere was insane, I mean a Final Four team with Buddy Hield, a pro obviously.
I still have Buddy Hield nightmares…
(Laughs again) So he really really did his thing especially in the second half. It was a really great game, a really competitive atmosphere. All in all I think it was a really good learning experience and confidence booster for myself.
You had 19 blocks at Florida Gulf Coast last year. I know front court depth is part of the reason (VCU) brought you in, what do you think you can add to the team in that respect? What would you classify yourself as — a stretch-4?
I’d classify myself as a stretch-4, yeah. At Florida Gulf Coast I played a lot of 5 because it’s a smaller conference just playing-wise, guys aren’t really as built. With that I’ve learned in my five years how to play the post, how to play outside of it, so I mean just guarding and whatever, just instincts, timing and stuff like that. I don’t have Mo Alie-Cox behind me anymore, so I have to try and do what I can.
So that’s a responsibility you want to take on this year? Being a rim protector?
Yeah, definitely, being one of the most athletic guys on the team, I feel like being able to show that athleticism on the defensive end by chasing blocks and rebounding and whatever that may be.
You’ve played in the ACC and Atlantic Sun now, how does that compare to A-10 competition?
I think it’s honestly a really good conference (the A-10), people kind of knock it a little but in terms of competitiveness and players and the elite level of skill, it’s really like one of the top-rated in the country. The Atlantic-10 I feel like is a really good fit for me because I’m able to use my skill-set and my height and everything, it just adapts really well.
In the first place, what brought you here, and why are Richmond and VCU such a good fit for you?
Well out of high school I remember getting a lot of recruiting calls. Coach (Jeremy) Ballard was the main one recruiting me, and I remember talks with him being like 30, 45 minutes. I never really connected to any other coach like that. Then I got on the phone with coach Smart, and he’d sit there and talk to me for like 30-40 minutes. I could just kind of feel the personality and the vibe, you could tell they were good people. I just loved it. Then with the opportunity to come back and relive it again, it was almost automatic.
You mentioned Johnny and Terry, Justin (Tillman) is gone too, that was your class back then. What’s this group of guys like that you’re coming into right now?
They’re a little bit different, I’m still kind of feeling them out honestly. But all in all they’re a really great group of guys. They’re invested in their time, they’re invested in their skill and the game. I think if we all just buy in and have the same type of goal, and I feel like that’s what we’ve been able to do, then we’ll be really good this year.
You declared for the draft as well, what was that process like and when did VCU come into the picture?
The biggest thing, I think, was just the opportunity to get that experience. VCU talked to me a little bit after the season ended, and just said “Hey we have an opportunity, we understand what you’re going through, in terms of the professional career,” and I was really ready to graduate college and play professionally. But then with the opportunity to come back to VCU, to enhance my skill-set a little more, get a little bit stronger, and have that one more year to just prepare myself, it meant a lot.
If you were telling your story to somebody, like to the VCU fanbase, what do they need to know about Michael Gilmore?
So obviously the loss of my father my freshman year was kind of critical, he was a really big symbolic figure in my life when it came to anything. So, just going back and trying to reimplement all the things he taught me and trying to better myself for my little sister, my mother who’s back at home, my older sister, whoever it may be, and just try to make the best of the opportunities that I have.
Zach Joachim Executive Editor