LSU-Alexandria is still a fairly new basketball program as they have only had a program since the 2014-2015 season. However, if you pay attention to the NAIA DI national spotlight all year long, then you know they are a national power, and have been since day one. They are consistently one of the biggest teams in the country, and in year two of the program they were able to bring in a former staple of their program, in 6’10 Gilbert Talbot.
Gilbert, like many others in the NAIA realm, started his collegiate playing career at the NCAA D1 level. He spent his first two seasons at Louisiana Tech. While he loved his teammates, and had been a part of two conference championships there, he knew that it wasn’t the right fit for him personally or athletically. The first time that LSU-A head coach, Larry Cordaro, hit him up, Gilbert admits that he had a “D1” mindset and thought he was too big time for NAIA basketball. He ended up turning them down. Coach Cordaro stayed in contact with him, and finally won him over.
Gilbert admits that Coach Cordaro is the most non traditional coach in all aspects of coaching. First he’s a way shorter then even their shortest players. He’s loud, offbeat, but preaches life more than he coaches basketball. From the first moment Gilbert stepped on campus, he said it felt like home. It was a place, a program, and a coaching staff that he started to really believe could give him a fresh start both in school, and in life. He enjoyed his visit with Coach Cordaro and former LSU-A assistant Coach Jay Smith, who just accepted an assistant coaching position at NCAA D1 University of New Orleans, after being the head coach at NAIA DI Wiley College. LSU-A turned out to be a life changing place for Gilbert, and he said he can’t thank the staff, school, community, and his teammates enough for the best two years of his life.
Gilbert left his legacy at the school. He was the first player in program history to be named a NAIA Player of the Week. He holds numerous program records including most field goals made in one game, most rebounds in a single game, highest field goal percentage in a season, and highest career field goal percentage by a player no longer at LSU-A. Gilbert was also named to the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) All-Conference First Team in 2016-2017, and in the same season was the RRAC Tournament’s CO-MVP. He helped LSU-A go 34-1 and reach the NAIA Fab Four. He finished his career as a 4x conference champ (2 at Louisiana Tech, 2 at LSU-A). He says that being named the first NAIA Player of the Week in program history, and the teams Final Four runs, are his favorite memories as a student-athlete at LSU-A.
All of those accolades helped Gilbert to sign his first pro contract with Fokopo, Forssa (Finland). In his first season he averaged 21 points per game and 15.9 rebounds per game. The 15.9 rebounds led the Finish First Division. Those numbers were good enough to get him a new contract with Club Sayago Montevideo in Uruguay which he just signed with this week.
NAIA basketball allowed Gilbert to showcase his talents and earn a pro contract. He wants kids to know not to make the same initial mistakes he made in thinking that he was too good for NAIA basketball. He says that the NAIA is a GRIND. There are so many D1 talents at the NAIA level. He said that every night you will be tested and tried. There is absolutely nothing second tier about graduating and competing for an NAIA program. He wants players to know to not listen to those who say you can’t go pro from NAIA, because there are so many NAIA players playing professional basketball. His biggest regret was that his D1 mentality made him only get to play two years at this level. He challenges kids that if you want to put in the work, and can tolerate the grind, then to give NAIA basketball a shot.
After his professional career is done, Gilbert really wants to get into coaching and give back to kids. He has had the privilege of being around some amazing men and women who shaped him into the person he is. He ha seen first hand the powerful impact positive influences an have on young women and men. He wants to use athletics as a platform to keep build up young human beings, and to have an impact on their lives. Gilbert is a gentle giant who I am sure kids will love, and he will find success in whatever avenue he chooses to go down.