Montaque Gill-Caesar makes Missouri a force to be reckoned with in the SEC
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- During the summer AAU circuit, Kim Anderson sat and watched the player who would become the biggest catch of his first recruiting class. One thought rattled through the mind of Missouri's first-year basketball coach as he scouted Montaque Gill-Caesar.
"Do more. Do more. Do more," Anderson later recalled.
Skip ahead a few months and Gill-Caesar is trying to fulfill those wishes on Anderson's watch. Gill-Caesar, a chiseled 6-foot-6 wing player from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada, had been on Mizzou's recruiting radar long before Anderson took over his alma mater's program in April.
A prized 2015 recruit from Huntington Prep in West Virginia, Gill-Caesar became a priority target once Anderson added Rob Fulford to his coaching staff in June. Fulford was the head coach at Huntington Prep, a basketball program he launched five years earlier that's produced several Division I prospects, including former Kansas star Andrew Wiggins.
On Aug. 2, Gill-Caesar punctuated an already promising Mizzou freshman class when he followed his prep school coach and committed to the Tigers. Even better for Missouri, Gill-Caesar was eligible to finish high school a year early -- Huntington Prep players attend St. Joseph Central Catholic High School in Huntington -- and reclassify for the 2014 class.
Gill-Caesar, who goes by Teki, a nickname a family member gave him so long ago he's forgotten its origin, quickly enrolled at Mizzou and figures to be an important part of Anderson's rebuilt roster this season.
It was just the kind of national recruiting coup some Missouri fans feared was beyond Anderson's reach.
"He's a great team player," Anderson said. "He shoots the ball well. He's a good defender. Teki's a good basketball player. He doesn't have experience ... He can go up and dunk with the best, but he's pretty smooth about his game. I think everybody will like him."
If Tuesday's Black and Gold scrimmage is an indication, it won't take Gill-Caesar long to become a fan favorite. He teamed with MU women's player Morgan Stock to win the 3-point contest then scored seven points and pulled down four rebounds in 17 minutes of the 20-minute scrimmage.
The Mizzou coach who knows Gill-Caesar best expects the freshman to make an immediate impact on defense.
"Physically he can overpower wings," Fulford said. "One of the things we'd like to see him do more is be more assertive in overpowering people. He likes to challenge finesse guys, and if you look at him, he can be that finesse guy. But he's much more of a power guard who needs to play that way."
In Canada, Gill-Caesar was Wiggins' teammate at Vaughn Secondary School in Ontario then followed him to Huntington Prep. Both played for the Canadian-based AAU team CIA Bounce, which has also produced Division I standouts and NBA first-round picks Tristan Thompson (Texas), Anthony Bennett (UNLV) and Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), along with former Mizzou players Negus Webster-Chan and Stefan Jankovic, who both transferred to Hawaii.
Gill-Caesar expects to have an easier transition to the college game after his two-year prep school experience.
"We've been playing the best talent in the country," he said. "When you play against the best talent, you have to elevate your game."
Especially in practice.
"I can't explain how beneficial for him it was to go against Andrew every day in practice," Fulford said. "Teki would never back down from Andrew. Now, there were points in practice where Teki would get the better of Andrew until Andrew decided, 'OK, enough's enough.' It was kind of like the big brother would take over. But that experience was not only valuable for Teki, but it also helped Andrew because he couldn't coast in practice."
Once Wiggins left Huntington for Kansas -- he was a second-team All-American last season and the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick for Cleveland and later traded to Minnesota -- Gill-Caesar took over as Fulford's best player, averaging 16.1 points and 6.5 rebounds as a 55-percent shooter. In June, he thrived for Team Canada in the FIBA Americas U18 Championships as the international tournament's second-leading scorer at 19.6 points per game.
It only took a few pickup games to convince Mizzou freshman forward D'Angelo Allen that the Tigers landed an offensive force.
"He came and attacked me," Allen said. "I played a little bit of defense on him, but then he changed it up on me and made me look silly. I was like, 'Dang, I like your game and your style and your demeanor and how you carry yourself.'"
Starting with MU's first exhibition game Oct. 29 against William Jewell, Gill-Caesar should figure into the rotation heavily on the wing, along with freshman Namon Wright. The Tigers return only one guard from last year's team, Wes Clark, whose 4.1 points per game accounted for just 6.9 percent of Mizzou's perimeter scoring last season.
Anderson has repeatedly called Gill-Caesar a complete player. He just wants to see more, more, more.
"I really don't take things as pressure," Gill-Caesar said. "I take them as opportunity."
Congrats and welcome Montaque Gill - Caesar to the Mizzou basketball family. Excited to get started.— Kim Anderson (@CoachAndersonMU) August 2, 2014