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"At age 34, Timberwolves guard Kendall Gill doesn't hide the fact he doesn't have the same athletic ability that allowed him to rise high above the rim to dunk a ball the way he did when he entered the NBA way back in 1990.
In an era in which the league is being taken over by a young generation, Gill knows he is fortunate to still be playing.
He makes up for what he lacks in athleticism by using Zen philosophy and martial-arts teaching, techniques that give him flexibility, serenity, confidence and the ability to help him control his temper on the court.
"Those have definitely helped me stay in the league," he said. "My reflexes are still fast, my flexibility is real good, my concentration is good and I'm very calm. Not much upsets me. It's a great discipline that teaches you how to control yourself."
Gill is trained in the martial arts of jujitsu and Muay Thai. He became more and more interested in Zen as he matured.
"Their way of life is a good way to live your life," he said. "Always in the present."
Gill always has been an avid boxing fan, but his interest diminished after his father moved the family from Chicago's inner city to the suburbs, where the sport wasn't as popular. It wasn't until he was knocked to the ground about six years ago that he regained his passion for the sport. He lay on the ground while at least three guys punched and kicked him in the head during a fight outside a Chicago nightclub.
"It wasn't my fault, I had to defend myself, but I fell on the ground and didn't know what to do," Gill said. "I took a lot of blows I shouldn't have. After that day, I said it would never happen to me again. So the next day I called my friend and said I wanted to start training with him."
Gill fell in love with jujitsu and Muay Thai, a popular fighting style used in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He trains five days a week and spars ? with and without pads ? on weekends during the summer in Chicago. Gill wants to hone his skills during the NBA season, but he hasn't found a teammate willing or foolish enough to spar with him.
"I do it to keep my body in shape and keep my conditioning up," the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Gill said. "I've been hit in the head numerous times, but I've still been able to keep my sense."
Gill says his martial arts skills help him stay calm on the court when play gets physical or an opponent attempts to draw him into a verbal war.
"I don't even pay attention to it because I know if I wanted to, I could beat him up," he said. "It's like you have a really fast car driving down the road, and a junker pulls up and challenges you. You know you can blow it away if you want, but you decide to leave it alone. That's the maturity aspect of it."
Although he isn't dunking over defenders or blowing by them with a quick first step anymore, Gill is having one of his best seasons in recent years. With Wally Szczerbiak out because of a foot injury, Gill began the season as Anthony Peeler's primary backup at shooting guard. On Nov. 19, Gill was inserted into the starting lineup where he is averaging 9.9 points and nearly 30 minutes a game.
"I think he's an ultimate professional, and he keeps his body in tremendous shape," Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. "If he gets beaten out, it's because he's not as athletic as he used to be defensively. He's still a smart player, though.
"We have to watch out because without Wally what's happening is (Gill) is getting worn down, and that's our biggest concern. He had the idea that he was coming in and playing 20 to 24 minutes."
Not bad for a player who didn't really start taking care of his body until he got into a fight six years ago. "

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