Sometimes Romaro Gill thinks back to the past five years.
He remembers where he was and how far he has come, from a high school graduate in his homeland of Jamaica with no set plans to a key piece in one of the country's best college basketball teams.
For the pioneering 7-foot-2 center at Seton Hall No. 10, it still seems surreal.
"I have to wonder if this really happens," he said in a phone interview.
It is a remarkable story. 25-year-old Gill only started playing organized basketball when he landed at Vincennes (Ind.) University. In his first season, he scored an average of 1.8 points in 13 games. Fast forward so far, when Gill emerged as the linchpin for Defending Seton Hall. With an average of 3.11 blocks per game, he is in sixth place in Division I. His offensive game started practically from scratch. Gill dots everything and shows a gentle touch around the basket. After reaching a double-digit figure in his first 40 games as a pirate, he scored an average of 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in six Big East competitions.
It all started with a leap of trust from several people, including Gill. Growing up in Saint Thomas, Jamaica, he played cricket and volleyball, but basketball always fascinated him. He was tall and occasionally played pickup games. He participated in the annual Jamaica Basketball Development camp, where Samardo Samuels, Jerome Jordan and current Illinois newcomer Kofi Cockburn were born. Gill impressed scout Mike Minto, who saw him again later that year.
"He could run away from anyone," said Minto, a New Jersey native of Jamaica. "There was no way that this 3-meter child could run around here and not play."
Gill was stunned when Minto approached him for a college scholarship. He felt there were better players than he was – and there was no film in which Minto showed college coaches.
Minto wanted to keep Gill near him in the northeast, but local junior colleges blew him away. Vincenne's trainer Todd Franklin still had a scholarship for the 2015/16 season and trusted Minto, a friend of his. He picked up Gill. His second year at Vincennes, which participates in the National Junior College Athletic Association, Gill completed an average of 2.5 blocks while shooting 56 percent of the field. As a result, his recruitment was very low, mostly in middle to low school.
In March 2017, Seton Hall had just left the NCAA tournament and assistant coach Grant Billmeier was in Hutchinson, Kan., For the Junior College National Tournament. He was there to see other prospects when he saw Gill. When in possession of the ball, Gill threw a dunk on a pick-and-roll and quickly caught a pass. On another, he blocked three shots in a row.
"I looked around and thought," Why is no one recruiting him? "Billmeier recalled." A lot of people at this event needed a finished product. We didn't need someone for this year, but for the following two years. "
Billmeier worked quickly to get Gill to campus. Following the tournament, other high-profile programs, including Georgetown, Washington and Washington State, had sparked interest. But Seton Hall ended up with Gill, who liked the campus and was near Minto. Gill was also happy with the plan that coach Kevin Willard had worked out. Because of the crowded forecourt in which Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo attended, the pirates wanted Gill to red-shirt his first season and learn from the program's veterans.
"You kind of inspired me," he said. "It was a great decision for me to sit outside this year."
Gill showed lightning last season and got better and better throughout the year, which helped Seton Hall reach the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in a row. When he was out for three weeks due to an ankle injury last year, the pirates faced four out of five losses. In one of the biggest wins of the year against Marquette No. 23 on March 6, he had seven points, five rebounds and three blocked shots.
Still, Gill's recent offensive production never seemed likely. In just one of Seton Hall's first 13 games this year, he hit double digits. Then on January 3rd came a 78:62 victory over Georgetown at the Prudential Center. Gill exploded for 17 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks.
"I never thought I could score so many points," he said.
He followed with 11 points and five blocks against Xavier and 10 points and six rebounds against Marquette. In a come-from-behind victory over the then No. 5 butler on January 15, Gill had a number of oops and scored 17 points. He then scored the second double of his career, a 14-point Tour de Force with 13 rebounds and six blocks, in a win against St. Johns last Saturday in the Garden.
"This rapid transformation," said Minto, "is a surprise to everyone."