The 6-foot-3-inch senior guard hopes to enjoy a similar experience at his next stop — Bates College in Lewiston.
“When I went to visit there this fall, it was Homecoming Weekend and also Alumni Weekend, so I got to see the sense of community pride all the alumni had for Bates,” said Gilpin. “It reminded me a lot of Hampden Academy with how everybody was so supportive of the athletic teams.”
Gilpin also considered several other NCAA Division III schools, including Colby, Bowdoin, Babson, Clark University and Connecticut College, before deciding to attend Bates beginning next fall.
“My plan was to go to a high academic school,” he said.
Gilpin was introduced to Bates and its basketball program two years ago when older brother Zach Gilpin, the state’s 2014 Gatorade Maine Player of the Year for Hampden who now plays at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, was being recruited by the college.
His interest intensified this summer after Hampden coach Russ Bartlett notified Bates coach Jon Furbush that Nick Gilpin was interested in joining the Bobcats.
“Coach Furbush was surprised that I wasn’t already committed to a scholarship-level school,” said Gilpin. “He told me he was shocked when he found that out, and that’s when he really started recruiting me because he thought he had no chance from the beginning.”
“Obviously it’s a great academic school and graduating from Bates and having that diploma looks great,” said Gilpin. “And having Graham having positive things to say about the program made it even easier to go there.”
Bates is 4-3 this season after a breakthrough campaign last winter when it finished 21-7 and won two NCAA tournament games before falling to fellow New England Small College Athletic Conference member Trinity College of Hartford, Connecticut, in the regional semifinals.
Gilpin will bring a resume to the Bates program that includes a 67-3 varsity record with Hampden since becoming a starter with the Broncos as a freshman. That run has been highlighted to date by Class A state championships in 2013 and 2015 and three consecutive Eastern Maine Class A titles.
He averaged 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game last winter while shooting 83 percent from the free-throw line.
“As far as the basketball portion goes, he’s a player that makes players around him better because of his unselfish play,” said Bartlett. “Nick is about winning and whatever it takes to get that done. He’ll do whatever coach Furbush needs from him to help the Bobcats be successful. The one thing we all know about Nick is he’s at his best in the biggest moments, and you just can’t teach that.”
Bartlett also believes Gilpin will thrive in Bates’ academic environment.
“As a student-athlete, Nick is very motivated to be successful on the court and in the classroom,” he said. “He gets very good grades and takes school very seriously.”
Gilpin had been considered a potential scholarship-level player throughout much of his basketball career at Hampden and did receive at least one Division II athletic scholarship offer.
But he said any disappointment about not landing a basketball scholarship is more than offset by the opportunity to play for Bates in one of the top Division III basketball conferences in the country, the college’s academic offerings and a financial package he described as “more than I could have ever expected.”