How Gill became every Wizard's favorite teammate


WASHINGTON -- After a tumultuous trade deadline day and a Wizards win over the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 10, Kyle Kuzma was asked an open-ended question about what he was most proud of in the victory.

"Anthony Gill, that's what I'm most proud of," Kuzma said, adding he is one of the best teammates he's ever had.

Last season, Bradley Beal shared a similar compliment for Gill: "A.G.'s one of our best teammates. He's one of our hardest workers."

Last year, the famously hard-working Russell Westbrook even gave Gill some props in that area.

"Anthony works his tail off every single day, every morning. He does all the right things," he said.

Quickly sensing all of this during training camp last fall, rookie first-round pick Corey Kispert asked Gill to be his workout partner so he could learn to train like a professional.

"I want to attach myself to the hardest worker in the room and A.G. is atop that list," Kispert said.

These are not things you often hear about a guy who may be the 15th player out of 15 on the Wizards roster. He barely plays, having averaged just 8.5 minutes in 55 total games across two seasons. Last year, he was the second-oldest rookie in Wizards/Bullets franchise history at the age of 28.

While he only plays spot minutes in Wizards games, Gill makes a significant impact behind the scenes. He's one of the first players in the practice facility every morning, gives his all in every drill and always brings a positive attitude to the workplace.

"He's a workaholic, but he's also an A-plus human being and any chance he gets to uplift somebody, he does," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. told NBC Sports Washington.

"There's countless examples; he does it during the game, he does it during practice. He's always encouraging, he's always involved. He will do all the little things that go unnoticed, unnoticed except to the coaches. Even on those rough days, he's come to me and asked how I'm doing. Like, on the totem pole of people you need to be worried about, I shouldn't be up there. But that just speaks to who he is as a person."

Gill says he got many of these traits from his father, Anthony Gill Sr., a sports merchandise sales rep who instilled the mindset at an early age (a very early age) to give a full effort in every walk of life. That applied to school, relationships, every conversation he found himself in, according to Gill. And, of course, it applied to sports.

Gill says his father bought him a 10-foot basketball hoop at the age of five. Gill was over-the-moon excited because he could play basketball whenever he wanted. But Gill Sr. "had other ideas," according to the Wizards forward.

"He worked me so hard at five. I just remember trying to catch my breath at the age of five," Gill told NBC Sports Washington. "He was like 'we're going to work hard every single day.' And that's what we did. It was great. Looking back on it, I love it because it made me who I am today."

The initial goal wasn't to become a professional basketball player. Gill also played football and was a well-rounded kid. The mindset was to be the best at whatever he chose to do in life and Gill believes it shaped who he is as a player and as a person.

When he gets home from practice, he says he applies the same approach to being a father. He's all-in on family to the point he describes his life as very simple: "My identity is strictly my kids, my wife and then basketball."

At work, Gill pushes himself in part because he has to as a player on the NBA roster fringe. Before joining the Wizards, and after he starred at the University of Virginia, Gill played five years overseas, including three seasons in the EuroLeague, widely considered to be the second-best league in the world.

He played for BC Khimki in Moscow, Russia along an unusual route to the NBA. Wizards team president Tommy Sheppard stayed in touch before signing him to a two-year contract in November of 2020.

Gill says he feels "unbelievably blessed to have this job" and is determined to make sure he can stick around. Even though he is usually on the outside of the rotation looking in, he feels that mentality rubs off on his teammates.

"I just never stopped working," Gill said. "Every day my job here is to set the bar as far as how hard everybody should work. I just bust my butt every single day and everybody else kind of falls in place after that."

It's to the extent where the Wizards' medical staff has to hold him back. Gill says if it were up to him, he would probably train so much he would tire himself out for games. They have to step in and draw the line.

Unseld Jr. says it's not easy for players who play infrequently to practice that hard. Gill embodies the idea of staying ready, as minutes are rarely guaranteed. When he plays, it generally means someone else was injured or the game is well out of hand.

"That's the sign of a pro," Unseld Jr. said.

And that's a big reason why Gill is establishing some lasting power in the NBA. It's only his second season, but he's the type of player a coach like Unseld Jr. loves having around. He works hard and treats people right. Or, as Unseld Jr. puts it, he's "not a d---."

When Gill's playing days are over someday, Unseld Jr. feels he could translate very well to another career.

"I told him a long time ago, if you ever decide to change and say 'I'm going to hang it up,' he'd make an unbelievable coach. Unbelievable. He's got the right spirit, the right work ethic. He's focused and detailed enough," Unseld Jr. said.

"And I think he's really good with managing people, managing up and managing down. He's kind of that glue guy for us in the locker room. He's always kind of breathing life and confidence in everybody, building people up. He's able to relate to Brad and keep him going and he's able to pull some of the young guys up. He can go on both sides of the spectrum. How he relates to us as a staff and coaches has been incredible."

That's Anthony Gill for you. Whether you see him on the floor in a game or not, he's finding a way to make his presence felt one way or another.

Contact Us