Saved by basketball: Why Julian Gee moved nearly 500 miles to Farmville
Published 1:22 pm Wednesday, December 30, 2015
By Halle Parker
Special to The Farmville Herald
Before moving to Farmville, Julian Gee lived in Springfield, Ohio, with his mother and grandmother — his home.
Email newsletter signup
It was where he was offered drugs and experienced friends die in the streets.
It was where his father was arrested and sent to jail for a large part of his life.
And it was where he learned to play basketball.
“Basketball kept me out of trouble,” he said, describing the city’s peer pressure and gangs. “It got to a point where I got so serious about basketball that people decided not to mess with me … It’s like when one kid has a future and everybody sees it and then they decide not to mess with them.”
He started playing at a young age, going to camps each summer spent with his uncle’s family who lived in Cleveland, Ohio. His uncle is both his father’s brother and Longwood University men’s basketball head coach Jayson Gee.
He developed a bond with his cousin Bryan Gee, a redshirt freshman point guard at Longwood, and they were able to understand each other in a glance with a laugh. There’s a closeness he holds with that side of his family that they have created over the years.
“For the last 10 years of his life, he’s stayed the entire summer with me,” said Jayson Gee.
“There was need there with the status and the situation with his parents and my wife and I just tried to step in and provide that need.”
Julian Gee officially moved in two and half years ago while the head coach was transitioning into his new job at Longwood, nearly 500 miles away.
For Jayson Gee’s first year, his family stayed in Ohio while he prepared for them. When the rest of his uncle’s family made the journey down south, he joined them.
“My mom thought it was a better place for me to stay with them because where I’m from was really rough. It was a rough lifestyle,” he said. “People died, people got shot … there was a robbery here and there.”
Enrolling in Fuqua School as a sophomore, he joined the football and basketball teams.
In basketball, he averaged 11.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game his first season, playing all 19 games with the Falcons under last year’s head coach and athletic director Marcus Gregory.
This year, he started hot with Player of the Game honors in the first game of his junior season against Brunswick Academy as a two-year starter and top returner on a team with a nine-man roster and a new head coach, Chuck Thomas. He’s helped the Falcons as a center and power forward, enjoying his big man role.
At Fuqua, Julian Gee appreciates the relationship he’s built with his coaches, but academics is the key difference, simulating a college environment. In Ohio, he was considered a good student, but the caliber of the education was lower, both Jayson and Julian Gee agreed.
“Since the school was so rough and the city was rough, like, everybody was dropping out, and I was considered a bright student and I had a 3.6 (GPA) at one point there,” said Julian Gee. He admitted to struggling at Fuqua at first, until his uncle and aunt pushed him to meet the standard.
“He’s always been a really good student, but wasn’t being asked to do as much and now he’s a really good student while being asked to do college-level work,” said Jayson Gee.
“Like my uncle always says, if I’m going to do 100 percent on the court, I have to do 100 percent in the classroom,” he said.
Looking to the future, Julian Gee wants to play basketball in college and earn a good degree.
“I don’t want to be one of those guys who plays and is on the streets afterwards,” he said.
Maybe he’ll play for his uncle like his cousin, he is a recruit. Maybe not. Either way, he’s looking for coach who builds a strong, caring player-coach relationship with his program and wants him as member, said Julian Gee.
“I don’t know if I want to go to Longwood, but anywhere really. I just want to keep playing because that’s what I want to do.”