Among the most exciting and successful rookies in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague last season was Anthony Gill of Khimki Moscow Region, who proved vitally important to his team making its first playoffs appearance ever. But Gill's first EuroLeague season was also about finding a second home at Khimki. Having lost teammate and friend Tyler Honeycutt to tragedy this summer, Gill has returned to Russia intent on helping those around him as much as he can. To that end, Gill is already hosting what he intends to be weekly local events for people in need in the Khimki community. He will blog about those events and his team's progress this season on EuroLeague.net!
A lot of times, athletes forget that we are a big influence on the people around us. I think we have to do a better job of talking to kids, giving back to them and letting them know that there are people out there who care for them. Last year, I went to orphanages here in Khimki and close to the city. I liked it a lot and knew that I wanted to do something for kids again. I reached out to Khimki and the club's organization because I knew they were doing good things in the community. They found these kids who are going through a lot of problems at home, so I wanted to be with them for a bit of their time and be able to make them smile, let them know that people care for them.
We came in and met each other, sat down and talked. Some of them spoke English and spoke directly to me, but we had a translator. Then we ate food and they played video games at the arcade, which was great. We rode in some bumper cars and got hit a lot. I think I was a big target for them - that was fun! Everywhere I went, I got hit! After that, we ate some cake, had some tea and I have to say it was a great experience. We had a great time. Just seeing the smile on their faces, you could tell they had a good time, too.
"I want to be a consistent presence in their lives. I don't want this to be a one-time thing."
The kids were last week, and this week I met with older people. Like I said, it is important to help our community in every way that I can. They came up with the idea of a meeting with the oldest people around here and I think that is great for everyone, you know? A lot of people forget that the older community here has its problems, as well, and I want to make sure that I make people smile, as many people as I can. I want to see all of them as many times as I can, too.
We took the kids to some of our games last year and I want to be a consistent presence in their lives. I don't want this to be a one-time thing and forget about it. It is something I want to continue to do and make sure they know someone is backing them every week. This is something I am not trying to do for media attention or anything like that; I want to see them with smiles on their faces. The way I was brought up, this is really important. I plan on bringing them to great basketball games, especially EuroLeague games, which are really competitive.
"Tyler was a great part of this team...He is always going to be remembered."
We have a different situation here in Khimki because of what happened with Tyler. For me, the biggest thing is to be the best team that we can be this year and for me to be the best teammate that I can be. I want to have a good relationship with all of them and make sure I am involved in their lives. I want to let them know they have someone to go to and talk to if they ever need to, kind of thinking about it more like a family. What happened to Tyler really hit everybody and really brought all of us a lot closer together. We understand that this is more than basketball that we are dealing with here. It is real life. We have to be like a family. None of us expected anything like that. I was his roommate in road games and never saw anything like that. It is tough for some people to live in different countries and live in a different culture when you are not able to adjust right. I think that really added up for him and, unfortunately, it ended up the way it did. Tyler was a great part of this team. His energy and character brought a lot of life to us. He is always going to be remembered.
I feel very comfortable at this club. For me, the biggest thing is to feel myself part of the country, wholeheartedly. A lot of guys from different countries don't get into the culture easily, but I want to know how the Russian people are living and be open-minded. I think that made it a lot easier for me, to know that I can call Khimki a second home. I have many friends here and the team we have is like a family, so it was easy for me to come back here.
As for basketball, it feels great to be back and it's going well so far. We have a lot of adjustments to make, a lot of guys are out right now, playing for their national teams, but I think we are doing well and the goal is to do better than last year. It will be my second EuroLeague season and I hope I can do even better. I have a lot of confidence and already know what I can do for this team, how I can help the team out as much as possible. It is important for me to win games, and everybody from the players to the coaching staff wants that -- to win more games than last year and go futher in the playoffs. We are working hard each and every day to try to find ways to do that. And if we continue to work hard, we will be alright!