Gav took some steps forward last season, even though it may have seemed to be of the “one and a half steps forward, one back” variety at times. He started 33 games for the Spartans, providing a physical and athletic presence inside. Despite a perception (which in fairness was sometimes actually reflecting reality) that he struggled to finish, he did lead MSU in field goal percentage at 58%, a healthy number for a post player. Defensively, when he was really dialed in, he played the pick and roll as well as anyone at MSU since Antonio Smith. At times, his rare combination of size, strength and athletic ability would produce a “wow” moment where you could see the potential for what he could be with more consistency.
Yet, it’s also fair to say that there was still a great deal of room for improvement. Gav had yet to show much in the way of post development, getting most of his occasional point production via garbage buckets or in transition. While improved from his freshman year in this regard, he was still too foul prone, reflecting a lack of consistency in applying MSU’s defensive principles. He hasn’t yet rebounded at the level I think his physical tools suggest he could.
Of anyone on the team, however, I think the Italian tour meant the most from a basketball perspective to Gavin Schilling. It’s not a stretch to suggest that the four games represent the best sustained basketball we’ve yet seen from Gavin. He started by scoring 12 points against a lower level Italian pro team. Then he really turned it up, scoring 17 against a huge Russian national team filled with professionals. He had 8 boards against a big and talented Italian national team. Then he capped it off with a 17 and 9 effort against another huge team with NBA players, this one from Georgia. In watching the second half of the Italy game and all of the Georgia game, what stood out is how much more comfortable and confident Gavin seemed to be. He was actually making and finishing post moves on offense…he isn’t going to make anyone forget Adrian Dantley but they were effective moves all the same. He was rebounding exceptionally well, exploding to the ball and using his strength to secure possession in traffic. It was all really, really encouraging.
Now I’m nowhere near prepared to suggest that we’re going to see 17 and 9 out of him with regularity this season. However, I do think we will see improvement. As is usually the case with Gavin, walking the line between aggressive MSU post defense and foul trouble will be crucial. He has to actually be on the court in order to help this team. If he can do that, I think he’s set for a really nice season. It’s been overshadowed to some extent by the inconsistency in his game but it really is the truth…there are VERY few guys in the college game who possess the physical package Gavin has, and if he’s truly started to harness it all, look out.