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Gilmores: Like Father, Like Son


George and Kaleb Gilmore

Just over a decade ago, I was coaching intermediate girls basketball at St. Anthony’s School in Kailua. Coaching the boys elementary team was former Chaminade All-American George Gilmore. His team was made up of mostly fifthand sixth-graders, but George allowed his son Kaleb, then a first-grader, to fill in at practice.

To say Kaleb had skills was an understatement. I remember stopping our own practice to watch this mighty mite with tremendous ball-handling skills he had learned from his dad just rip up and down the court and knock down buckets as if he was born to do so.

“Come on, guys, you’re letting a first-grader beat you,” George would scold his team. But inside, the elder Gilmore was beaming. He knew Kaleb’s future was just a matter of time.

That time is now. In the most recent HHSAA state championship game, Kaleb, now a senior at Kalaheo and a 6-foot guard just like his dad, scored a game-high 30 points in leading the defending champion Mustangs to a thrilling victory over powerful Iolani to win the state title.

“I wanted it so bad for Kaleb and for all the other kids,” George tells me. “A couple of years ago, he lost a heartbreaker in the championship game at Maryknoll. I think (that memory) pushed him and made him a better player. With help from (Kalaheo head coach) Alika (Smith), he was able to get over the hump (and) realize a dream.”

Basketball has fulfilled so many dreams in the Gilmore household. When he was only a couple of years older than Kaleb is now, George spurned opportunities to play at the Division I level and ultimately led the NCAA Division II in scoring at Chaminade. Along the way, he set the school’s all-time scoring record and was the only Silversword player to be named Most Outstanding Player at college basketball’s pre-eminent early season event, the Maui Invitational (then known as the Maui Classic).

George took his outstanding game to Italy and Turkey, where he was one of the premier guards in the pro leagues of Europe — he once was referred to as the Italian League’s version of Magic Johnson. During offseason, he married a local girl and settled down in Kailua. When he retired from pro ball after 14 seasons, he stayed in Hawaii and eventually became a counselor at Kapolei Detention Home, where he works with at-risk teenagers.

“I talk with kids every day; I let them know how basketball helped me,” he says. “I tell them to find something you love and build on it.”

His own son has heard the same message and is building on the game he loves. An All-State player in his first three seasons at Maryknoll, Kaleb transferred back to his hometown to finish his high school career at Kalaheo.

“My former (college) coach’s son keeps up with his progress, and he keeps saying, ‘George, he looks just like you did. And he plays like you, too.'”

Kaleb has seen the old videos of his dad’s playing days, too, and relishes the opportunity to follow in Dad’s footsteps. “He’s better than I was in high school. I think he wants to break all my records,” George says, laughing.

Kaleb will get his chance. Earlier this year, he turned down interest from some DI schools and signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Chaminade.

“He wanted to go to the same school I went to,” George says. “I’m so proud of him.”

It means the Gilmore story of George and Kaleb continues for all local hoops fans to enjoy for many more years to come.