COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Admon Gilder looks forward to daily FaceTime calls with 3-year-old daughter Kailey, but they can’t replace actual face-to-face time.
Gilder is excited about facing Texas A&M, where he spent the previous four years of his career, but Gonzaga’s senior guard is off-the-charts amped to see Kailey for the first time since August.
“Just to be able to see her smile and see her face and see her in some Zag gear is going to make me happy,” Gilder said. “Every day, every night we (FaceTime). I have a great support system that helps me out with my mom, dad and sister and (Kailey’s) mother.”
The eighth-ranked Zags’ first road trip of the season brings Gilder and teammates Ryan Woolridge and Drew Timme back to their Texas roots. All three grew up in the Dallas area, and they’ve been fielding numerous ticket requests for Friday’s clash with the Aggies at Reed Arena.
“It’s about 2 1/2 hours away (from home), not going the speed limit,” smiled Woolridge, who played three seasons at North Texas before transferring to Gonzaga. “I’ve got 13 tickets and I might have to get two more. Probably 10 of those are family, the rest friends.”
New Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams recruited Timme when he was the coach at Virginia Tech. While Timme blossomed into a top-50 recruit at JJ Pearce High in Richardson, Texas, Williams guided the Hokies to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Virginia Tech had been to one NCAA Tournament in 18 seasons prior to his arrival.
“He’s a great coach and I love him, a very tough coach,” Timme said. “It’s going to be a fun matchup.”
Gilder was a valuable contributor in one of the best stretches in Texas A&M’s history. Gilder, along with fellow Dallas-area recruits D.J. Hogg, Tyler Davis and Elijah Thomas, helped spark the Aggies to the 2016 SEC title and a trip to the Sweet 16.
Thomas transferred after his freshman year to Clemson, but Davis, Hogg and Gilder were the top three scorers as Texas A&M made the 2018 Sweet 16 after crushing second-seeded North Carolina 86-65. It marked the first time in program history the Aggies reached two Sweet 16s in a three-year span.
“The main thing we wanted was to make a football school kind of like a basketball school,” said Gilder, who celebrated his 24th birthday Thursday. “We wanted to leave our mark, just us four guys from Dallas, (it was) something we had in our plan. (Now) everybody is on their different journeys.”
Hogg and Davis turned pro after their junior seasons. Hogg is with the NBA G League Wisconsin Herd while Davis is playing in China. Thomas was a double-digit scorer in his final two years at Clemson.
Gilder stayed put but was sidelined last season with a blood clot in his arm. He was cleared to return to basketball activities in April, roughly the same time period when Texas A&M fired coach Billy Kennedy and hired Williams.
Gilder entered the transfer portal and considered TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State and SMU before committing to Gonzaga in May.
“It’s a fresh new start,” Gilder said. “I had to do what’s best for my family like everybody else. I’m here at Gonzaga and I’m happy here.”
He’ll be much happier if Friday’s outcome goes in Gonzaga’s win column. The Aggies, picked 12th in the SEC preseason poll, are 2-0 with several of Gilder’s former teammates in primary roles, including wing Savion Flagg, guard Jay Jay Chandler and center Josh Nebo.
Chandler is the team’s leading scorer at 14 points, followed by Flagg at 13. Nebo returned from injury and was instrumental in the Aggies’ comeback victory over Louisiana Monroe on Monday.
“I FaceTime them almost every week,” Gilder said. “They’re looking forward to it. We created a bond when I was there. We’re going to be brothers for life.”
The Aggies will be without junior guard T.J. Starks, who scored 16 points, all in the first half, in last year’s 94-71 loss to the Zags. Starks has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, the school announced Thursday.
Gilder’s situation has parallels to Nigel Williams-Goss, who transferred from Washington to Gonzaga. Williams-Goss faced his former team in 2017 but that matchup, won by GU 98-71, was inside the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“I don’t worry about Admon making it some personal vendetta,” Zags assistant coach Tommy Lloyd said. “He’s a mature kid, an unbelievable team kid. He’s all about winning and doing what it takes.”
Texas A&M’s personnel and loud home-court environment should provide the first major test for the Zags, who have rolled by 31, 50 and 31 points against three overmatched teams. Gilder and Woolridge have played in nearly 200 games combined but the tandem, along with freshmen forwards Timme and Anton Watson, has worn Zag uniforms only three times.
“The athleticism is going to jump up, there’s a big football game the next day so the atmosphere should be really good and special,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Buzz’s teams always play extremely hard and really get after you on the defensive end. It’s going to be a battle. There’ll be some big bodies in the paint and some real quickness out on the perimeter.”
And some memorable moments before, during and after for Gilder, Woolridge and Timme.
“I’ll be wired up,” Gilder said. “It’s going to be great, a memorable weekend and we’re ready to get the win.”
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