INA – Rend Lake College Vice President of Finance and Administration Larry West, Athletic Director Brent McLain and Warriors Head Coach Tim Wills would like to congratulate sophomore player Brian Gamber on his commitment to Taylor University today.
The college held a press conference at the Private Dining Area inside the on-campus Student Center to promote and celebrate the ongoing basketball career of this Southern Illinois native. Joining Gamber were Wills; his parents, Terry and Joy Gamber; Taylor University Assistant Coach Chad Tapp and Head Coach Paul Patterson in his 30th year at the helm of Trojans basketball.
“It’s the best fit for me, not just basketball-wise but school-wise, to get a quality education first and foremost and on top of that they have a great basketball tradition,” Gamber said. “They do things the right way ... the things that I look for.”
“I think in the 17 years I’ve been doing this, today may be the first time I’ve had a guy sign before the season ended,” Wills revealed. “I think this will free Brian up for the rest of the year to relax – not that he hasn’t been relaxed – but now he knows where he is going and the pressure to perform for recruiters is off. He can focus on improving his game for next year. That’s kind of the junior college mentality. We want to win games and be successful, but a big part of what we are here for is to help them grow as players and individuals, and continue on.”
Gamber, 21, comes from a family with a rich local basketball tradition. The son of Mt. Vernon Township High School Hall of Famer the Honorable Judge Terry Gamber and the younger brother of MVTHS Basketball Head Coach Scott Gamber, Brian talked about his family and how their values and passion for basketball have been so formative of the road he is on.
“No doubt it’s been huge,” he said “They’ve been there for me all along, whether I’m playing YMCA when I’m 8 years old all the way through Buford, junior high, high school and college. There are some long, nasty road trips, but it seems like every time I run out I look up in the stands and I see my mom and dad there. That is important to me and I understand that going away from home, they are not going to be able to come to a lot of games. But there comes a time where you just kind of have to go do it on your own. ... No matter what I know they love me. Whether I score two points or 40 points, they’ve got my back. For that, I love them.”
He played for the Mt. Vernon Rams under former coach Doug Creel – an RLC Sports Hall of Famer – and attended RLC right out of high school, but did not participate in basketball. After transferring to Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Gamber returned to RLC. He called it “the right fit at the right time.” In 2007, he started playing for Wills in the Warriors program and in that season became a 2008 All-Great Rivers Athletic Conference guard/forward. He has made the RLC Vice President’s list for outstanding academic achievement in multiple semesters and said he will continue to major in elementary education and hopes to one day go into coaching.
Standing at 6-6 and 190 pounds, and wearing number 21 on his chest – his mother pointed out that both his father and brother wore 21 for MVTHS – Gamber was averaging more than 10.5 points per game with a shooting percentage of 40 percent and a team-high 8 rebounds a game coming into the conference part of the season in January. His stats before the “second season” also include 3.5 assists per game (second on the team), nine assists and two blocks in 13 games, and one of the lowest turnover percentages on the team at 1.462 per game.
Wills said Gamber’s most significant improvement from last season to this season has been his grasp of being responsible and accountable as a leader on the team.
“He has come so far since that first year out of high school when he was going to come on as a walk on,” Wills said. “He is so much more accomplished as a player. He is bigger, stronger and his skills are better. But I think the big thing he has improved upon is his leadership quality. He has become a leader on our team and a guy who helps other guys come onto the team and improve. He is willing to do what it takes to better the team ... and I think that has rubbed off on our guys.”
“As a sophomore, I feel like I need to be a leader out there,” Gamber said and added that, without Wills and assistant coaches Dave Jackson and Dave Brown, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sign with Taylor.
“They worked with me a lot,” Gamber said. “They’ve given me a great opportunity and I hope to do the same for Taylor, to put in the work and get better every day.”
Taylor University is a Christian liberal arts college in Upland, Ind. It is affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and is a member of the NAIA Great Lakes Region and the Mid-Central Conference. Patterson said the team finished 20-12 and fourth in the league last season, beating seven nationally-ranked teams.
“We were really only about two games away from being able to qualify for the national tournament,” he explained.
Gamber visited the college and watched the team play. He said their work ethic – something he takes pride in – made Taylor a great fit.
Patterson said he and Tapp are recruiting players who can help build the program back to what it was years ago – a league championship dynasty that graduates All-Americans.
“Our league is one of the top NAIA Division II leagues in the country,” Patterson said. We have four teams rated in the top 16 in the country. ... it’s a really athletic, competitive league.”
He said Gamber’s experience at RLC is good, especially since the Warriors program stresses many of the same core methods he focuses on with his players.
“We’ve been in the process of trying to get back to that level again and we feel like we are making progress. We like Brian for his skills and I don’t think you get that without playing a lot of games. ... to be able to hold your own against college juniors and seniors is a big thing. All of the things that he values are why we are interested. We feel he is going to be a major contributor. ...We think with his maturity, his experience, he’s going to be a major part of what we think will be a much-improved team ... a team that will compete for the top in our league next year.”
Taylor will run a triangle offense, meaning the two, three and four spots are differentiated by matchups more than anything else, Patterson explained.
“We think he is going to play a little bit of all of that and it will really be determined by who he is guarding and who else is playing with him at a given time.”