Ja’Kobi Gillespie on his transition to Maryland, football background

After Jahmir Young exhausted his college eligibility following two seasons in College Park, Maryland basketball head coach Kevin Willard is preparing to turn the keys to the offense over to Ja’Kobi Gillespie, a former Belmont guard who the Terps zeroed in on once the transfer portal kicked off. Gillespie was named to the MVC Most Improved Team, All-Defensive Team and second team All-Conference after posting 17.2 points and 4.2 assists last season along with over 51% from three.

Gillespie won’t have to do it alone after Rodney Rice and Selton Miguel signed on from the portal, Derik Queen became the prize of the 2024 class while star big man Julian Reese returned for his fourth season in College Park. He sat down in the latest string of new player introductions to talk about his transition, new teammates and new surroundings.

On getting acclimated with his new teammates

“It’s been really exciting just getting to know all the guys. I feel like we had a great first week getting to know each other. Working hard and pushing like in the weight room, just now we were just working hard. Some guys couldn’t get it and we were helping, encouraging so I feel like it’s been a really good first week.”

On his football background, decision to play basketball

“I mean, that’s just always what I like to do more. Sophomore year high school, I quit football to focus on basketball and then junior year, I went back and started playing football really just for fun, all my friends were playing and then I ended up being like really good. But I knew I wanted to play basketball. That’s always where my heart’s been at.”

Whether anything football-related translates to basketball

“I think it did in high school for sure. I was way more athletic than everybody. I was jumping super high so athletically yeah, it definitely helped me.”

On when he wanted to play basketball at a high level

“I started playing when I was four, but when I knew I could make it, probably I would say eighth grade. I started getting really good and then freshman year, I was kind of still small, so I didn’t really play varsity. But then sophomore year, that’s when I really — got super good.”

On his high school development

“Freshman year I was 5-foot-7, probably. I grew up in the summer to probably like 5-11 and then I just got up to 6-1.”

On the chance to continue the legacy of impact guards at Maryland

“Coach, he just showed me all the film. He showed me how much he likes to use his point guards and how much trust he has in his point guards so that really just kind of persuaded me to come here.”

On what he likes to do off the court

“I like to chill with my teammates, kind of have fun. Go out a couple of sometimes. I started golfing in Nashville, so I’m trying to get better at that. I’m not there yet though…I haven’t even played nine holes or 18 holes. I just went and like hit, driving range.”

On his first season at Maryland

“It’s super exciting. I mean, I haven’t played in front of as many fans as this, so it’s going to be different, but I’m super excited to get out there in Xfinity.”

On becoming a Commanders fan

“My dad’s dad, he was like in the military and stuff and he was up here for awhile and so now my whole family is just Commanders’ fans.”

“I think Jayden Daniels is going to be him.  I think that’s the next like Lamar Jackson. I think we’ll be really good.”

On the music he’s listening to the most

“Gunna, Future and NBA YoungBoy.”

What’s in the back of his car

“Nothing. I keep my car super clean.”

Last TV show he streamed

“Probably All-American just because they’re dropping new episodes right now.”

The NBA player he’d love to test himself against

“Anthony Edwards. I love watching him.”

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