“I got two fouls in the first minute of the first game I played in, so it was something to adjust to,” said the former Hampden Academy star after helping the Bobcats to a 72-62 nonconference victory over Husson University on Saturday at Newman Gymnasium. “But with every game it starts to feel better and better.”
Gilpin, who was Maine’s 2016 Mr. Basketball and a two-time Bangor Daily News All-Maine first-team honoree after leading Hampden to an 82-4 record with two Class A state championships and three regional titles during his four years as a starting guard, has taken a more understated role in helping Bates get off to a 4-2 start this season.
“He’s dynamite. He’s never going to show up too much on the stat sheet, but he’s a coach’s dream,” said Bates coach Jon Furbush. “The kid does a lot of of the things you can’t teach. He has instincts, he knows how to play the game, he’s timely, and I think he makes big plays and big shots.
“He’s been a real pleasant surprise so far,” he said.
Gilpin has started Bates’ last three games at point guard in place of injured junior Shawn Strickland, and while his statistics indeed aren’t overwhelming — 2.3 points, two rebounds and 1.7 assists per game — that may be merely a matter of time and experience.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pound Gilpin accounted for more than 2,000 career points in high school while scoring 1,093 points and dishing out 519 assists, and he rarely took as many as 20 shots in any game for coach Russ Bartlett’s Broncos.
His performance against Husson in his collegiate return to the Bangor area marked a similar display of unselfishness as he finished with five points, four assists and three rebounds in 29 minutes.
“I feel like I’ve always been the type of player to put my teammates’ scoring first,” said Gilpin. “I’m not looking at the stat sheet thinking, ‘How many points did I have?’ I’d rather get an assist and make my teammates play better.”
Against Husson, Gilpin was content to penetrate into the lane and kick the ball out to backcourt mates Thomas Coyne of Falmouth and Jerome Darling, who combined to make nine of 20 3-point tries, or work the ball farther inside to Bates big men, twins Marcus Delpeche and Malcolm Delpeche.
“Offensively he creates separation,” said Furbush, “and even though Nick doesn’t shoot the ball a lot, he gets into the paint and draws defenses and makes the right read a lot.”
Furbush could have anticipated that from Gilpin, but what was slightly unexpected by the ninth-year Bates coach has been his early success at the other end of the court.
Gilpin drew the primary defensive assignment against star Husson guard Raheem Anderson and helped limit him to a 7-of-20 shooting performance with six turnovers.
“I don’t remember him playing this well defensively in high school,” said Furbush. “He’s a good team defender, but in the last two games I’ve put him on who I think was the other team’s best player, and he’s done a really good job of defending the ball.”
Gilpin continues to adapt to the heightened pace of play in college compared to high school, particularly as he prepares to compete in one of the nation’s top Division III conferences.
Bates opens New England Small College Athletic Conference play at home Wednesday against in-state rival Bowdoin College of Brunswick. The Bobcats’ league schedule also includes matchups against Amherst and Tufts, the Nos. 1 and 3 teams nationally, respectively, according to d3hoops.com.
“It’s a lot faster tempo, and it’s weird playing with a shot clock because I’ve never done that before,” said Gilpin, whose team already played No. 2 Babson. “And the defenders I’m playing against are men compared to high school players from last year. The physicality is a lot greater at this level, so you’ve just got to adjust to it, and once you adjust to it, you’re good to go.
Gilpin, who praised the academic environment at Bates, likes the team’s offensive scheme.
“There are a lot of ball screens that I feel I can work off and help create for the big men rolling to the hoop or have a wide-open, pull-up jump shot from the elbow area, a shot that in high school I really liked and coach Bartlett wanted me to take,” he said. “The shots I want to take are going to be there for me.”