Tre Gilliam a sensational sophomore for Gibbs basketball

Published December 13 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — The last name of Gibbs High’s electrifying guard is Gilliam. That much is certain.

The uncertainty has to do with his first name.

Is it Tre or Frank?

"You can go with either one," Gilliam said. "Which one do you like?"

Um.

Gladiators coach Larry Murphy settles this dispute.

"It’s Tre. That’s everyone here calls him," Murphy said. "Frank — that’s his government name."

Murphy would know. The longtime coach is a cousin of Gilliam’s father, also Frank and a former standout in football at Northeast who went on to play at Hofstra and in the Arena Football League.

"Tre’s dad is like a brother to me," Murphy said.

Tre is like an adopted son.

So it was only natural that basketball had a prominent theme in Tre’s childhood. He grew up with Gibbs’ stellar boys program.

"I’ve been shooting in this gym before I could pick up a boys-sized basketball," Tre said. "I’ve been in the locker room since I was 6 or 7. I’ve always been around Gibbs basketball."

Murphy has been Tre’s coach going back to Amateur Athletic Union basketball leagues in the third grade.

Because of that family bond, Tre knew almost from the time he could walk where he was going to play high school basketball.

"I guess you could say it was a dream come true because I always knew my time would come when I would put on a Gladiator uniform," Tre said.

But his first introduction into high school basketball came at another school. In seventh and eighth grade, Tre played at Northside Christian.

That was by design.

Tre joined the Mustangs so he could be on varsity — and play against older players —while he still was in middle school.

The plan all along was once Tre became a freshman last season, he would bolt from Northside Christian and join Gibbs, taking with him years of varsity experience.

"I wanted to see better competition than what I would see in middle school," he said. "I think it helped me and prepared me to play once I got to Gibbs. But the whole time I still was working with Coach Murphy."

As a freshman, Tre was given the ball and a team to run. The Gladiators played well, winning the Class 6A, District 11 title. But they lost in the opening round of the playoffs to Cape Coral Mariner.

Gilliam finished his freshman season averaging 13.1 points and 4.6 assists.

"Tre was already polished when he got here, and I knew what he would do," Murphy said. "There were typical growing pains like any freshman would have. The guys were bigger, stronger and faster, not just in the games but also every day here in practice.

"But he was able to get through that because he already had a high IQ for the game."

Murphy is the gracious older cousin until Tre does not make his shots or cuts. That is when Murphy will give an exasperated glare like he would to any player.

It does not happen often.

This season, Murphy switched Tre from point guard to shooting guard to help provide more scoring. Tre has delivered, averaging a team-high 24.3 points for Gibbs, which was undefeated entering the week. Tre’s ability to provide points was vital early in the season when teammate David Pierce, a Coastal Carolina commit, was out the first three games with a knee injury.

"I just did my part to help the team," Tre said. "Now that David is back we have all the pieces in place to really make a run."

The 5-foot-10 Tre’s versatility — and impressive numbers — already have him on the fast track to college. He has scholarship offers from North Florida and James Madison and expects to have more.

But those are not the numbers Tre really wants to talk about.

"Do you have any questions about school," Tre asks before heading off to practice.

He is quick to answer. Tre has a 4.2 weighted grade-point average and already has a qualifying test score — one he got in the seventh grade.

"Tre pretty much has it all," Murphy said.

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