Photo by Kyle West / Sports Reporter
Connor Gilmore is a fifth-year starting forward for the Marauders. After a summer of playing professional ball for the Canadian Elite Basketball League on the Hamilton Honey Badgers, he brings a new level of professionalism and veteran experience to McMaster’s roster, which now hosts more first and second-year players than in previous years. Just above two thirds of the players are in their second year or below, while Gilmore is the only fifth year player on the team accompanied by three fourth year players. Gilmore’s tenure at McMaster and the summer he spent playing professionally taught him about playing, life and leadership, the most important lesson being about communication.
Gilmore is constantly playing at a high level when it comes to statistics, currently being the second-highest scorer on the team with 15.4 points per game. He is also the team’s leading rebounder with an average of seven rebounds per game and the second-best passer on the team with 2.6 assists per matchup. Knowing what Gilmore is capable of, and given that there are eight games left on the schedule, Gilmore’s numbers will likely be trending up.
Along with being one of the more impressive players on the team statistically, Gilmore has also embraced a leadership role on the team as one of the few veterans left.
Having the experience of playing with six former National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1 players on the Honey Badgers, Gilmore learned about his game and how to deal with big moments. He rounded out his offensive and defensive strategies, as he was playing in a taller league which left him, at 6”7’, unable to play the center position he was used to playing in the Ontario University Athletics. In his summer league, Gilmore was better suited to play small forward.
“Being with the older, more veteran guys on the team, playing with them and against them who were really good players. I feel like it made me better overall,” Gilmore said.
Not only did the stint with the Honey Badgers help him with his overall game, it also helped him when it came to big moments and maturity in the locker room by seeing how professionals conducted themselves.
“I learned that being a leader on a professional team full of guys and their egos, it’s tough to bring everyone together so you really have to be a personable guy. You have to listen to the players, understand how to approach situations with different people since everyone responds to things differently . . . you have to communicate really well,” Gilmore noted.
Hamilton’s Black and Gold made it the CEBL final, where they ended up losing to the Saskastchewan Rattlers by a slim margin of nine points. Going this deep in the CEBL playoffs taught Gilmore about longevity in the season and persistence. He applies this experience to his leadership role back at McMaster, where he is able to reassure younger players after the team experiences bad losses, for example in the case of the team’s current five-game losing streak. Being able to see the bigger picture and learning from losses earlier in the season is a good thing, Gilmore remarked, as it is easier to recover at that point and become a stronger team than to recover from losing when it matters most.
While Gilmore brings his statistics, professional experience and winning mentality to the team, he says the most valuable thing he has learned over the past years is the importance of communication. Discussing issues, communicating frustrations, talking about the team’s faults and addressing problems immediately are what Gilmore outlined as the keys to a team’s success.
Addressing issues right away prevents them from happening again in the next quarter, half or game. If the shot selection of the team is off, for example, reminding players to make smarter shots at half can lead to a better finish to the game. Being mature and resolving conflicts between teammates can prevent a rift from occuring in the locker room and on the court. Communication is key, and it grounds Gilmore’s leadership style.
Looking to the future at McMaster, the big man is hoping to help lead the team to the playoffs alongside Jordan Henry and Kwasi Adu-Poku, other key weapons on the roster. After this year and with his experience in the CEBL, Gilmore is setting his sights to the horizon. Whether that is playing overseas in Europe or continuing to move up the ranks in North America, the sky is truly the limit for the McMaster forward.