Few points, but oh what a work ethic

PULLMAN -- In many ways, senior forward <b>Shami Gill</b> embodies the Washington State team he's part of. Nothing flashy. No chance of the scoreboard catching fire. But lots of tireless defense. And more often than not, the 6-foot-7 social sciences major from Mission, British Columbia, takes the court against opponents who are bigger, stronger and faster. Yet, one way or another, Gill finds a way to prevail -- or at least be competitive.

"Shami is an effort guy," WSU head coach Dick Bennett said. "He always plays as hard as he can for as long as he can. He never rests, and he never makes excuses."

As one of five seniors on a team that boasts eight freshmen, Gill puts leadership high on his list of priorities in his final college season.

"We have a lot of young guys, so me and the other seniors wanted to set examples for them, on and off the court. I let my actions speak by working hard," he says.

For those freshmen who have been getting a lot of playing time, Gill can relate. As a freshman at WSU in 2001-02, he started 20 games. He started the first 11 games of his sophomore campaign until foot and back injuries caused him to miss most of the remainder of the season.

"I have a lot of experience," Gill said. "If I see anything on the court that I can help [younger players] with, I help them." Last year, Gill started every game but one and was third on the team in minutes played. He led the Cougars in rebounds with 5.3 per game, despite playing most of the time against bigger power forwards. He also averaged 5.9 points per game, tied for second on the team in blocks, and in a testament to his role on defense, led the team in fouls committed.

After missing this year's season opener with a hip injury, Gill has started in four of the last six, averaging 3.7 points and 4.5 rebounds, second-highest on the team to fellow senior Jeff Varem (7.9 per game).

Against BYU last Saturday, Gill scored only one point, but it was that free throw with 6/7 seconds left that helped WSU secure a 49-46 road win.

While teammates and coaches respect Gill for his fundamentals and intangibles, he is far from a complete player. Gill's glaring weakness is his offense, which is puzzling when you look at his prep career. As a senior at Philip Pocock High in Toronto, Gill averaged 24 points and 14 rebounds per game, earning first team All-Canadian, all-province and all-city honors. As a junior he poured in 29 points per outing.

Since coming to WSU, however, Gill hasn't cracked 20 points in a game. His career high is 17, a figure he reached once as a sophomore (against Montana) and once last year (against USC).

"If he had an offensive game, he'd be a really good player," Bennett said. "I think part of it is that he lacks confidence in his scoring, and also he gets overpowered because he's going up against guys who are bigger than him. But he is by far our best post defender, our best screener and our best hustler."

Gill may have lost his reputation as a scorer long ago, but to some extent, he's made up for it with doing whatever else the Cougars need of him.

"Pure hard work, hustle and leadership -- that's what I take pride in," he said.

• The Cougars improved to 4-3 on the season following the win at BYU last Saturday. They hit the road tomorrow for a game at Portland and then head to Laramie for their last non-conference game, againstWyoming, on Dec. 22. Pac-10 play kicks off in Spokane against Stanford Dec. 31 and then Cal on Jan. 2.

• Two touted members of the Cougars' freshmen class – point guard Derrick Low and center Chris Henry -- made their starting debuts at BYU. Both are coming off injuries that sidelined them most of the season. Each played 15 minutes. Henry was 1-for-4 from the field and Low 0-for-2. Low also dished off two assists.

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