A long, strange trip
N.C. State's Gillian Goring is finally living up to billing
Posted: Wednesday February 14, 2007 11:33AM; Updated: Wednesday February 14, 2007 4:06PM
Five years ago Gillian Goring was one of the most sought-after women's basketball recruits in the country. A 6-foot-7 center with rare agility and an array of post moves, she could run the floor, shoot the three and catch any pass that came anywhere close to her. Some compared her to Lisa Leslie or Dikembe Mutombo, while Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who desperately wanted to sign her, called her "the female Olajuwon." The coach who did get her signature could pencil in double-doubles most nights, All-America awards every year and three or four national titles.
None of that has come to pass for Goring -- none, that is, except for the double-doubles, and those have only started happening with regularity in the last month. After recovering from surgery for a herniated disk in October, Goring, now a fifth-year senior at North Carolina State (18-8, 7-4 in the ACC), made her first career collegiate start against Boston College on Jan. 11. She has been making the most of her time on the floor ever since, averaging a team-leading 12.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in the Wolfpack's last 10 games. "It's been great to watch," said Wolfpack associate head coach Stephanie Glance. "I have to hand it to Gillian, because I think there were a lot of people across the country who didn't believe she could do it at this level."
How did Goring get from a can't-miss prospect to a major question mark?
Her tale begins in her native Trinidad, where she was recognized as a precocious basketball talent as soon as she started playing the game at the age of 7. At 13 she was a vice-captain on the U-19 national squad, playing with girls four and five years older. About that time, women's basketball recruiting guru Mike Flynn heard about her through the Internet and brought her to the U.S. to play on his Philadelphia Belles AAU team for two summers. Flynn eventually became her legal guardian and enrolled her at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. After two years with the Patriots, Goring transferred to an Iowa public school, Waterloo West, so she could graduate with the class of 2002. In just 14 games at West, she averaged 17.1 points, 12.7 rebounds and seven blocks. She was a finalist for the Naismith Award and was named to the inaugural women's McDonald's All-American squad. Ending months of recruiting drama, she signed with Connecticut in April 2002, rounding out a blockbuster recruiting class that included Ann Strother, Barbara Turner, Wilnett Crockett, and Nicole Wolff.
But the Fab Five were reduced to four when Goring's ACT score fell one point shy of the number needed for athletic eligibility. "That was heartbreaking," says Goring. "It had been my dream to go there. But there had never been much emphasis on school when I was in Trinidad. As the star basketball player, I got away with everything. No one cared if you kept up your grades or not. It was tough making the transition to the U.S."
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