Fox Chapel's Gillman pursues the thrill of elite lacrosse
True to his Twitter name, “SkipThrillman,” Fox Chapel native Tucker Gillman is one of the most entertaining lacrosse goalies from Western Pennsylvania in a long while.
Gillman's goals go far beyond creating thrills, though.
After a spring in which he earned WPIAL Division I Player of the Year and U.S. Lacrosse All-American honors, Gillman, a rising senior at Shady Side Academy, has resumed his travels to the country's lacrosse hotbeds to determine where his talents stand nationally.
A Division I recruit who committed to Georgetown before his junior season, Gillman completed his latest trial this past week in Boyds, Md., at the Brine All-American Lacrosse National Classic, which ended Wednesday.
“I want to work to the point where I am the best goalie in the country,” said Gillman, who arrived at Shady Side Academy as a freshman. “Whether that really is a measurable goal or not is kind of tough, but that's kind of what I've been gunning for.”
Goaltender, a position he first adopted as an eighth grader and fully embraced as a sophomore, quickly became his golden ticket to the next level of lacrosse — he started at attack as a freshman and played some midfield soon after he learned the sport in fourth grade.
“He's just got athleticism pouring out of his ears,” said Shady Side Academy assistant Michael Williams, who coordinates the defense and coaches the goalies. “He got exponentially better each day, each week. He just loves lacrosse so much that he'll work at it all the time.”
Gillman made his greatest strides in the recruiting process when he traveled one state to the west. In Ohio, he linked up with Columbus-based Titanium Lacrosse, an organization dedicated to showcasing the Midwest's top talents, during the summer of 2012. Through Titanium, he encountered a quality of lacrosse unmatched in the WPIAL.
He held his own among the nation's elite.
“It's funny, because whenever I come to these events, you can always see the helmets of the players from the top high schools in the country,” he said. “You see them and expect them to be some kind of super player. But it's nice when I know that I'm a better goalie than someone, and I'm representing the Midwest, because a lot of times, people don't even realize we play lacrosse here.”
Because of his connections with the Buckeye State, Gillman tried out and made Team Ohio rather than Team Pennsylvania for the Brine All-American Lacrosse National Classic last year and this summer.
Familiarity with teammates is more than just a matter of comfort for Gillman, who needs his teammates to know that he's a bit of a wild man in the net. He zips outlet passes to transitioning teammates almost as soon as they turn to head upfield. And sometimes he just takes off with the ball in his stick, hardly concerned about the charging defenders.
His clearing skills are critical to Shady Side Academy's offensive strategy.
“A lot of players just push and push upfield, and Tucker just shreds them with his outlets,” said Williams, a former goalie at Syracuse.
Gillman is not the only goalie with aggressive offensive tendencies in the country. He knows that. But he also knows his approach is part of what makes him desirable at the top collegiate level.
“I probably have the most fun of any goalie back there,” he said. “It's more about playing for fun (at this point) ... and just playing to let my coaches know that they made the right decision by recruiting me to their school.”