Gill-Caesar making his own name for Huntington Prep
HUNTINGTON -- Huntington Prep basketball player Montaque Gill-Caesar considers former teammate Andrew Wiggins, now a budding freshman star at the University of Kansas, to be family.
That doesn't mean Gill-Caesar wants to be the next Andrew Wiggins, though.
Instead, he wants to be 'the first Teki', which is his nickname. This summer, he's doing a pretty good job of promoting his own brand name.
"I know the comparisons are there because we've taken the same route thus far, but in the same breath, I'm trying to make a name for myself and just be my own player," Gill-Caesar said Tuesday.
Gill-Caesar has emerged as a scoring leader for the Canadian-based CIA Bounce this summer. He enjoyed his best weekend yet at the Nike Peach Jam last week. At Peach Jam, he averaged more than 25 points per game in pool play while leading CIA Bounce to a berth in the semifinals of one of the AAU circuit's premier events.
"He understood that he was the best player on that team and he played that way," Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford said. "It's the marquee event of the summer -- the tournament of all tournaments -- and all the big names are there. Teki realizes that it's his turn and he's getting more aggressive on offense. We saw a little of that this weekend."
At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Gill-Caesar, the chiseled high school junior, overpowers most guards as he attacks the rim. However, he also has the touch to be a prolific spot-up shooter when given space.
Fulford said that he's working on a new dimension that could vault his already-vaunted stock in the Class of 2015. Currently, Gill-Caesar is ranked No. 17 in the ESPN Top 60 for 2015.
"He's gets into the paint against other guards and now, he's working on getting to the lane and creating his own shot off the dribble," Fulford said. "That's the biggest area of improvement right now, but this spring and summer, I think that without Andrew and X (Florida State freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes), he's shown a bit more of his repertoire."
Gill-Caesar's more aggressive nature took center stage during Nike's most prestigious AAU event as he unleashed perhaps the weekend's signature moment when he rose above two defenders to throw down a putback dunk.
The dunk earned the "Poster of the Week" award from USA Today's Jason Jordan -- a coveted award which Gill-Caesar said is one elite players all strive to achieve for bragging rights.
"It feels cool knowing I won that award," Gill-Caesar said. "I know that I turned some heads during the week and I handled business."
He also said the spectators were not the only ones left in shock by the dunk.
"I was surprised," Gill-Caesar said. "At first I was just going to tip it in, but when I realized how high I was, I knew I had to dunk it."
Almost immediately, the dunk went viral with videos hitting YouTube and Twitter both in the United States and Canada.
Then came the comparisons to it being a Wiggins-esque moment.
The comparisons are something Gill-Caesar takes in stride because he and Wiggins have such a similar background and solid relationship.
Both played at Vaughan Secondary School in Toronto and made their way to Huntington Prep.
Fulford said many people don't realize that Wiggins improved his game at Vaughan and Huntington Prep because he went against Gill-Caesar every day. It was never an easy matchup for Wiggins because Gill-Caesar possesses an NBA-ready body at just 17-years-old.
And, of course, going up against Wiggins, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2013, had advantages for Gill-Caesar.
"I've tried to tell him, you've played against the best player in high school over the last 10 to 12 years every day," Fulford said. "There is not any person that we play this year that he's going to be intimidated by because he's played better. I think his mentality is coming on to that and he had a huge weekend."
Gill-Caesar likened his relationship with Wiggins to a big brother-little brother type atmosphere. They're competitive because they want to make each other better, he said.
Gill-Caesar is looking ahead to the 2013-14 season when he will showcase his new role -- one which will be drastically different from last season.
"Not that I was limited or anything, but I had Andrew and X (Rathan-Mayes) there to take on more of the leadership role," Gill-Caesar said. "So this summer has both been about expanding my game and learning how to be a leader on and off the court."
This season's Huntington Prep team is taking shape. Gill-Caesar will team with point guard Josh Perkins (ESPN's No. 24 in Class of 2014), small forward and recent Providence commit Jalen Lindsey (ESPN's No. 32 in Class of 2014) and high-motor rebounding force Angel Delgado (ESPN's No. 63 in Class of 2014).
Gill-Caesar thinks it has all the makings of a special year for the Express.
"We're real excited," Gill-Caesar said. "It should be a fun year. We've got all the pieces to the puzzle. We just need to go out and take care of business."
Gill-Caesar already has lots of recruiting interest, including Kentucky, Ohio State, Indiana and Baylor.
He and his future teammates will return to Huntington in mid-August in anticipation for the school year at Huntington St. Joseph.