Hilmar High's Kole Gaglio signed his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday afternoon to pursue his dream of playing collegiate basketball.
University of California, Merced will be the place that Gaglio will call home in the upcoming season and he couldn't be any more excited and thankful.
“I definitely wanted to play college ball since its always been a dream since I was a kid,” said Gaglio. “I knew I wanted to do it going into the season and I was happy I was able to accomplish that. I reached out to JC's but once UC Merced offered, it was a no-brainer.”
In order to accomplish his goal Gaglio had to dig deep and push himself further than he ever has.
With the help of his high school coaches Paul Willis and Craig Peterson, Gaglio was determined to pursue his dream, but it started with the team, and most importantly his teammates.
“I think it was the two varsity coaches, coach Peterson and coach Willis who helped a lot with the countless hours working with me,” said Gaglio. “Coach Peterson helping me with whatever and both helped me get better as a basketball player.”
A combination of it all led to the Yellowjackets’ best season in over half a decade. Hilmar went 17-10 overall and 9-3 in the Trans-Valley League, earning a spot in the Division-IV Sac-Joaquin Section Tournament as a No. 9 seed. Unfortunately, they fell to No. 8 Dixon in the opening round, but the success by Hilmar was a long time coming.
“I think this year it was that we were more of a team than previous years,” said Gaglio. “This year we wanted to win and played great together and good team basketball.”
It was the first time since 2009-10 that the 'Jackets made the postseason, ending a six-year playoff drought for the program.
Gaglio, who stands at an intimidating 6-foot-5, also led his Yellowjackets in scoring and was a catalyst for the team’s success. He was also arguably one of the best basketball players and forwards in the Valley and UC Merced head coach Kevin Phan found that out in just one game — the regular season finale against undefeated in league at the time, Ripon High.
“I had emailed the coach and told him I was interested in playing college ball and not sure where I would go and coach Phan was at that game against Ripon,” said Gaglio, who tied Ripon’s Aaron Paschini with a game-high 27 points.
After that game, Gaglio secured a spot on the Bobcats roster.
“I had no idea he would be there,” said Gaglio. “But that game had a lot of motivation. It was the last game of the year before playoffs. It turned out to be one of my better ones.”
He led Hilmar in scoring after averaging 21.1 points per game but also added 8.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 27 games played.
Gaglio was named the 2016-17 Journal’s Co-Player of the Year.
“The team really helped me out because I wouldn't be able to do what I did without them,” he said. “I don't really look for my stats or any of that. I just did what it took to win and I guess that led to a good season.”
Gaglio will be joining former Pitman star Branson Garcia, who is heading into his junior season with UC Merced.
The UC Merced Bobcats are coming off an 8-18 overall season and went 6-8 in the Cal Pac.
“Obviously, everyone's goal is to start but I will take it one game at a time and work hard and get the most playing time I can,” Gaglio added. “I think my motivation is being able to get here, but if I will take advantage and make the most of it that's the motivation — work hard since I made it here and make the best of it.”