Taking their game on the road

McLaughlin and Gill join all-star basketball team for summer tournament season


June 24, 2021

For basketball hopefuls in Wyoming who aspire to the next level of their game, summer isn’t the time to take a break. Thanks to all-star team Wyoming Power, two of Sundance’s most talented players will go up against the best of the nation’s best during a full season of tournament events.

During the month of May, Lane Gill and Gunner McLaughlin spent weekends in Casper, scrimmaging alongside peers from across the state. Over the next few months, they’ll test their skills in tournament play that’s designed to both help players improve and give them the opportunity to engage tougher-than-average competitors.

“There’s nonstop games on like five different courts every day,” says McLaughlin, who says that several tournaments often take place at the same time across the country each weekend. The season began at the end of May and already the pair have played in Denver, CO; Scottsdale, AZ; and Windsor, CO.

“Usually, we play two or three times a day for three days. You get your money’s worth,” Gill jokes.

“It definitely ups your game,” says McLaughlin, who’s looking forward to seeing his personal progress when the high school basketball season starts again next year. “I’m playing against D1 commits, and then it will be back to just Wyoming players and I’ll be just that much better.”

It’s also a confidence boost, says Gill, who played on the team last year.

“I came back looking at the competition we play against in 2A in Wyoming against what I’d just played in Los Angeles, and I just thought, I can score nonstop on these kids,” he says.

“It’s great exposure for college coaches, they all come and watch the game.”

In fact, probably the most important goal of Wyoming Power is to make sure that the gifted players who are born and bred in America’s least populated state still have the opportunity to shine.

“No Wyoming kids ever go anywhere, is what they say. There are good athletes in Wyoming, but people don’t know that, so the point was to get out of Wyoming and get you seen by people,” Gill explains.

In other words, Wyoming Power brings the best players to the coaches, instead of waiting for the coaches to come to them. That’s a big deal, say Gill and McLaughlin.

“Wyoming doesn’t get any exposure to anything and one of the things our coaches said is that they’re trying to help us break the Wyoming tradition,” says Gill. “I think the big point of it was to try to help out Wyoming kids that they know don’t get the same opportunity that kids elsewhere do.”

“They said even Wyoming coaches don’t go to Wyoming games to watch people play,” adds McLaughlin. “There’s just not enough of us. I mean, there might be a good player, but there’s not enough good players for them to want to go.”

Wyoming Power players are selected by team owner Mike Newman after he’s seen what they can do on the court. After he played at state, says Gill, he got a message asking if he’d like to join a traveling team that would see action all over the country.

“It was a heck of an opportunity,” Gill says. “He said, if you can compete, we want you on the team. It’s been awesome and it helped me sign with Northwest College in Powell.”

Wyoming Power is intended to be the cream of Wyoming’s crop of current players – kids, says Gill, who can match up against kids from other states who will be playing college basketball.

“Game respects game,” Gill grins. “It’s been fun, and I’ve been able to play with Gunner – we’ve been teammates since we were little.”

The opportunity to travel doesn’t hurt, either. Gill says he’s never had the chance to spend time in Los Angeles, for example, and while he wouldn’t want to live in a big city, it’ll sure be fun to visit.

His love for wide open spaces is actually why he chose Northwest College – he has family there, and it’s a smaller town like the one he’s used to. Larger cities like Casper, Laramie or even Rapid City simply don’t appeal; “Too many stoplights,” he laughs.

The biggest difference between Wyoming Power and playing for the high school team, they say, is the challenge.

“The competition is way different,” says McLaughlin. “There’s kids from all over, it’s the best of the best people from across the country all in one place.”

“It’s a whole lot different, too, on the offensive side,” Gill continues. “It’s definitely not team ball, I wouldn’t say – you’ve got to get your own shots up.”

It’s a good way to see where your own levels are, he adds, and to test and stretch yourself.

“We’ve been playing kids that are seriously good,” Gill says. At a tournament in Arizona, for instance, Gill says he got talking to a kid from another team and found out he’d already received three D1 offers – college scholarship opportunities at the highest level.

“We beat that team,” he grins. “We were down by about 20 and then we came back in overtime and won. It was crazy, and they wouldn’t even shake our hands after that – they were mad.”

For Gill, both Wyoming Power and his college career are opportunities to continue indulging his love of the game.

“I’m so happy to not be done. I couldn’t stand the idea of being done after high school, especially with the way state ended. It really hurts, it wasn’t supposed to end that way,” he says. “I thought this was our year, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Maybe that’s because fate was pushing him to keep that chip on his shoulder for the next two years, he jokes. Meanwhile, he’s passing on responsibility for next year’s state title to McLaughlin, who just finished his junior year.

McLaughlin, too, is considering the idea of going to college for basketball. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about,” he nods, although as a junior he has some time left to make a decision.

For both boys, basketball is a passion.

“My love for the game has grown over the years,” Gill says. “It really depends on your coach too – if they are good to you and they show you stuff and they groom you and give you great advice and treat you like one of their own, it makes a huge difference.”

Gill says he had the greatest coach in the world in Nick Olson, who he credits with, “shaping me into a man and shaping me into a basketball player.” He hopes this summer, and his next two years in Powell, will make Olson proud.

Both boys are planning to play basketball through college and Gill says he then aims to transfer to a four-year course. He’s had offers from Kansas, Nebraska and Oregon, but the one that really mattered came from Wyoming.

“There’s no way I’m leaving Wyoming. There’s just too much opportunity for kids here with scholarships and your family can watch you – I’m going to be playing in Casper, Riverton, Rock Springs, LCCC in Cheyenne, Torrington and Powell and that’s all places my parents can travel,” Gill says.

McLaughlin isn’t making a decisions quite yet.

“We’ll see what offers I get. I’d like to stay in Wyoming too. The farthest I would go out is Black Hills State,” he says. “We’ll see what happens – I have a whole year.”

Whatever the future holds, the pair agree that it’s fairly certain basketball will be included.

“You never get your fill, even when you play six games in three days,” says Gill. “You’re tired, but you’re ready to play more. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to be done.”

“Even when we are done, we’re going to be playing pick-up games at the park,” McLaughlin smiles.

Upcoming tournaments include Denver from July 2-4, Windsor, CO from July 22-25 and Los Angeles from July 29 to August 1. Watch Gill and McLaughlin in action through the iHoops Nation and Prep Hoops apps.


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