NEESES – Not even a recent coaching change could impact Marlow Gilmore's decision.
The 6-foot-7 wing guard and YouTube viral dunking sensation from Hunter-Kinard-Tyler stuck with his selection of Daytona State College, signing his national letter of intent on Tuesday to play basketball for the junior college Falcons in Florida, beginning this fall.
"This is a dream come true for me," Gilmore said. "I've pictured myself signing with a school, but I didn't know where I would be going.
"It's a blessing to be able to do this, coming from a small school to be able to showcase my talents in college."
Brock Morris, head men's basketball coach at Daytona State for a year, left the program to become an assistant on Bob Marlin's staff at Louisiana in late May, right about the time that Gilmore was scheduled to sign his scholarship.
Daytona State has yet to announce a new head men's basketball coach. Assistant coach Justin Mann, a former Lander University basketball player, is still with the program and is in the mix for the head coaching position. But, regardless of who is named the next coach, Gilmore believes the NJCAA Mid-Florida Conference program is the place for him to improve his basketball skills, as he begins his college education.
"It's a nice campus and a nice environment," Gilmore said. "Once I got on the campus to visit, I had a shiver in my body, like it was God telling me I need to go to this school and this is the best fit for me to have better development for my skills.
"I also checked out Trinity Valley in Texas, Chipola in Florida. Of course my dream school is North Carolina State. I'm going to work hard to get that (NCAA) Division I offer."
Gilmore averaged 20.7 points, 15.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2 blocks per game during his senior season, as the Trojans went 14-10 and picked up one win in lower state playoffs. The 2019 Region 3A Player of the Year finished his prep career as a 4-time all-region player and a 3-time all-state player, scoring more than 1,800 points and grabbing more than 1,000 rebounds.
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"My first year here he was a freshman, and I was able to watch him grow to a maturity level as a senior to where his basketball IQ and his overall skill set let to him being our overall leader," H-K-T head boys basketball coach Stefon Milhouse said. "I'm excited to see him at the next level. Daytona State is getting a great athlete and an even better person.
"People see that he averaged around 20 points each of the last four seasons, but they don't realize that Marlow took fewer shots and made the players around him better by getting them more involved. He is a good example to our younger student-athletes for earning this opportunity. I encourage all of our kids to be better than their environment; get out and see what the world has to offer."
When asked about his memories from his high school career with the Trojans, Gilmore recalled each playoff loss that ended each of his final three seasons in the powder blue uniforms.
"It motivates me, knowing we were that close to winning a state championship," Gilmore said.
Gilmore has talked with college coaches who want to turn him into a point guard, with improved ball-handling skills added to his offensive game and his defensive presence.
"I just want to improve my talent," Gilmore said. "My passing has improved in the last year, going from averaging 3 assists per game to averaging 6.5. My rebounding numbers went up too, while my points stayed the same.
"I tried to become more versatile, as a better passer. I wanted my teammates more involved, knowing when it came time for it, they would look for me to get us the victory. I know, for college, I've got to get my defensive IQ up and work on my footwork, get my whole game up to par."
Daytona State posted a 25-7 record this past season, including a 9-3 record in Mid-Florida Conference play.
Gilmore knows the junior college route works for players looking to improve their skills and get more opportunities with 4-year programs. A cousin of his, Melinda Brimfield, attended Gulf Coast State College after graduating Hunter-Kinard-Tyler. As her game and her profile grew, she signed in 2013 and finished her collegiate career at Auburn University.