MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (KMSP) - The High School For Performing Artists’ new basketball court provides much more than a healthy escape for 18-year-old Aaron Gill.
“Right here, this home,” Gill grinned.
The St. Paul court has been a means out of homelessness for the tall teen.
“Survival. It’s always been survival, it still is survival,” Gill recalled of circumstances that had him at a dead end only one year ago.
“I found Brian and it’s like I’m going global. College coaches calling left and right, kids screaming my name, it’s just crazy,” he chuckled exuding humility.
Gill credits Brian Sandifer, Executive Director of the Grassroots Basketball Program, for guidance towards a more promising future.
The program coaches young people from all walks of life and empowers them to further their education through sports.
“His story motivates me because I know I have a stage that can get him out of his situation,” Sandifer told FOX 9.
“I know all too well his struggles. Not having food to eat, the phone calls, ‘Coach can you come by? Can you order me a pizza?’ At two, three in the morning,” Sandifer recounts of what Gill is still in the process of escaping.
Until Gill met Sandifer he only had his brothers to look up to. All of whom became felons.
“I understood what they were doing was wrong, but at the same time, where I’m from we really had no choice,” shared Gill.
As Gill gains athletic experience with Grassroots Basketball Program, that competes regionally and across the country, he heads into his junior year at the High School for Recording Artists.
“We’re talking about a kid that’s never played organized basketball,” Sandifer explains.
Why Gill works hard to dunk on the odds stacked against him.
“He’s just a genetic freak, this kid can jump from the free throw lines,” laughed Sandifer, “There are things he does you can’t even coach.”
A number of universities already have their sights set on Gill. Including Loyola University, U-W Green Bay, Southern Illinois, Tennessee State and several Southwestern Athletic Conference Schools.
“I just feel blessed,” Gill smiled. “I want to be a Blue Devil. I want to go to Duke.”
Gill also has significant motivation off the court.
“I got a baby on the way,” he said of the role of teenage fatherhood he will take on next month. “I got to make it,” he insisted.
Gill takes on his pending role with pride noting it gives him all the more reason to focus.
“Train, work hard, get my skill and eligibility up to where it needs to be,” Gill listed his short-list of academic and athletic goals.
A list he’ll check off to live off of his talents and return Sandifer’s favor.
“I want to do stuff somebody never did for me before, like Brian’s doing for me now. Give back to youth and neighborhoods like where I came from, ghettos. Things like that,” Gill nodded with eyes full of hope.
The Grassroots Basketball Program will host its next showcase August 14th at High School for Recording Artists.