COVINGTON, Ga. — When Marquis Gilstrap took a moment to recount his success as a basketball player and how he attained it, he knew the only logical next step was to do what he could to pass that success on.
The former Iowa State standout and international pro has taken his talents to such places as Europe, Turkey and Slovakia. He’s even had stops in the NBA’s D-League and Summer League. But when it came down to his chief passion, all arrows point back to Covington.
“I’ve been coaching at Eastside for the past four or five years and been training pretty much all of the kids in the community,” Gilstrap said. “The basketball talent down here, I really believe it’s a hotbed. Coaches I’ve played for and others ring my phone about players in this area every day. I’m glad this area is finally getting the recognition it deserves.”
And Gilstrap wants to make sure that the increased recognition turns into more local ballers moving on to play college basketball. That’s why, he says, “The Gilstrap Way” was born.
This past week, Gilstrap hosted The Gilstrap Way camp at Eastside High which welcomed close to 60 kids from the community, ranging from ages eight through high school. It’s the third year he’s done the camp. But Gilstrap has now stepped away from coaching with Eastside boys head coach Brent Wren’s staff in order to create an extension of his camp.
“Because I’ve been coaching at Eastside and most of the kids I train are Eastside kids, my work was starting to conflict with that, so I wanted to start my own AAU program,” he said. “Parents had been wanting me to do so for a while, and I think coach Wren and I mutually decided that’d be best for both of us.”
Gilstrap’s new AAU squad called Team Strap will actually give him more time to provide top notch training to the Eastside kids he’s grown to love. But he also has athletes who attend Alcovy and Newton as well.
Both The Gilstrap Way camp and Team Strap are a part of his plan to bottle up the formula to his success and distribute it to as many as will receive it.
“It really started one morning when I was just thinking about how I’d gotten to where I got to,” he said. “I had a dream of playing college basketball and professional basketball, so I just began thinking about what it took to get there. And it was really a lot of hard work. So that’s where it came from.”
Gilstrap went through a trying time when he suffered a torn left patellar tendon that sent the former Eastside standout on a tailspin from rising JUCO star to being back in Covington working odd jobs and nowhere close to being on the hardwood.
That’s why when boiled down, The Gilstrap Way is nothing complicated.
He says it’s just teaching kids how to embrace respect for the game and how even the things players do off the court can make a difference in their success on it.
“The Gilstrap way is really just like doing the right thing in and out of the game of basketball,” he said. “It’s all about promoting positivity and helping them learn how to network and create a brotherhood with those other players they play with. It’s about working hard, being dedicated to a process and just trying to live the right way no matter what.”
Gilstrap said he also envisions his camp and even his AAU team to become a platform to where players he’s coached and trained can come back and extend these lessons after achieving their own level of success.
He saw some of that this year when former Eastside star and current Northern Oklahoma player Keiodre Perry came back to help run the camp. So too did Eastside senior TJ Crawford.
“Those guys, Keiodre and TJ, them coming out was a big deal,” he said. “I’ve been training and coaching Keiodre since he was in the eighth grade and I’ve had TJ since he was nine years old. And that’s what it’s really all about. Hopefully when these kids finish playing basketball, the platform and opportunity will be there for them to come back and take over my program and take it further and I can just get out of the way.”
Gilstrap said his AAU team “plays mostly in exposure camps” as opposed to jumping on every local game or tournament he can find, and that, he says, is by design.
“We’ve played in a couple of Adidas tournaments and some On The Radar stuff,” he said. “That’s because I’m just trying to do this to see these kids get exposure and get them into college. That’s what it’s all about.”
And he’s seen some fruits. One Team Strap player, Alcovy’s Shaq Brown, has signed with Wilberforce College along with his Alcovy teammate AJ Paschal. Other players like Alcovy’s Jaylin Williams look to be major ingredients to their respective programs’ success in the 2018-19 season.
Gilstrap acknowledged that he’ll miss pacing the sidelines with Wren come next high school hoops season, but he said walking away was a sacrifice that he expects to pay big dividends soon for more than just himself.
“It’ll be my first year not coaching with Eastside, and that was a very hard decision to make because every year I’ve been there, we’ve really had the ball rolling and have been making it to the state playoffs and all,” he said. “But at the same time, like I said before, coach Wren and I both understood the benefit for both of us. And ultimately this will all give me more time to impact our kids here. To me that was worth the sacrifice.”