For Gilling and his roommates – redshirt freshman center Robert Aguilar (Los Angeles Marshall) and junior guard Tim Denson (Corona/Fullerton College) – shoveling snow to head to practice wasn’t exactly what they had in mind when they signed a letter of intent to play at Colorado State. “They definitely didn’t mention all this snow during the recruiting trips,” Gilling said jokingly. “You can’t wear the clothes that you want to, like T-shirts and shorts and stuff like that. Colorado State gives us plenty of clothes, which I definitely needed.” Instead of snow removal, Gilling chose Colorado State coming out of Ayala two years ago because he wanted to make the Rams a relevant part of the Mountain West Conference – one of the tougher “mid-major” conferences in the nation. As he nears the conclusion of his second year at CSU, Gilling finds himself as the starting shooting guard on a Rams team that is 15-9 overall and 5-7 in the MWC after an 82-66 victory over Texas Christian on Tuesday. Gilling scored 14 points in the victory. Barring an unlikely championship run in the conference tournament in Las Vegas next month, the Rams will not be in the NCAA Tournament and might have to scrap and claw to find itself in the NIT. But what they’ve done thus far is pretty good considering their previous history. “We had the first seven-game winning streak in school history this year,” Gilling said. “I thought that was unbelievable. At Ayala we’d have seven-game winning streaks all the time.” Gilling has been a big part of that improvement. He’s averaging 8.9 points a game and leads the Rams with 54 3-pointers, hitting the 3-point shot at a 43.9-percent clip. He started the season coming off the bench but has started eight of the Rams’ 12 conference games, averaging 10.7 points per game in MWC play. “Stephan has been a big reason why we have improved as much as we have,” Colorado State coach Dale Layer said. “We’ve always had good post players but we’ve never really been that great in the backcourt. We have some good guards right now and Stephan is one of them. “He’s matured a lot and has turned into a very coachable player.” Gilling will be the first to admit that he needed to buckle down a bit. He chose Colorado State over schools such as Pepperdine in part because of the consistent attention the Rams showed throughout the recruiting process. But the warmth they showed Gilling while recruiting him didn’t quite prepare him for the cold of Colorado State. But winter aside, Gilling was having a hard time adjusting from the suburban Southern California lifestyle to the more isolated atmosphere of Fort Collins, located 63 miles north of Denver. “There was a lot I wasn’t prepared for or comfortable with,” Gilling said. “I wasn’t used to it being five degrees, I wasn’t used to the snow. Fort Collins is kind of like a retirement community with a lot of old people and I’m used to a faster pace. “But I’m glad I had to adjust to all of it. It definitely has allowed me to grow as a person and start seeing the world a bit differently than I did before.” Gilling also had some familiar faces join him in Colorado. One was his girlfriend, who moved to Colorado. The second was his best friend from Ayala, Darren Moore, who is a freshman playing at Northern Colorado in Greeley, 32 miles southeast of Fort Collins. Having some Ayala ties was important in Gilling’s development, something he concedes. “Living in the dorm freshman year and being so far away from home was definitely tough on me,” he said. “It’s comforting to have my girlfriend and best friend here. It’s really helped me.” Being comfortable has allowed Gilling to help the Rams. A likely sociology major who wants to minor in business, he is taking a leadership role on the Rams, something that encourages Layer. “Stephan has really started to show some leadership qualities,” Layer said. “He comes from a winning program and is used to success. Winning breeds confidence and that’s what we are trying to develop here.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “It usually takes one song to get from my place to practice,” said Gilling, an Ayala High School graduate. “You start the car, a song starts and by the time it’s over, I’m there. “It hasn’t been like that lately though. There’s been so much snow that we have to dig the car out just to go anywhere. It takes like two hours sometimes.” How long does it take for three Californians to dig their car out of two feet of snow? No, it’s not a joke to be followed with a corny punchline. For Colorado State sophomore guard Stephan Gilling, it actually was a question with which he has practical experience in answering.