CUMBERLAND, Md. — At the end of last summer, Gerald Drumgoole Jr. had a major decision to make.
The then-Irondequoit (Rochester, N.Y.) was one of the few athletes across the country with the ability to compete at the Division I level in two sports: football and basketball.
On one hand, he was a first-team All-Greater Rochester on the gridiron as a wide receiver and safety. He was rated as a top five prospect in New York state and had a host of solid offers.
On the court, he was the reigning All-Greater Rochester Basketball Player of the Year and a state champion with the Eagles his sophomore year. So, in the end, how could he decide between the two?
By sticking with his heart.
“I always felt like I was a better basketball player and I was more well-rounded in that sport. Basketball was my passion and I just stuck with it and went with it,” Drumgoole said.
The decision to focus solely on basketball has paid off in a major way as he has gone from mainly being recruited by schools in the Northeast, to having schools from almost every Power 5 conference vying for his services.
While it was tough for Drumgoole to leave Irondequoit, ultimately it was the right decision as he committed to Pittsburgh on Monday following a three-day official visit.
His commitment might not have been possible if Drumgoole and his family didn’t go all in on basketball and send him to La Lumiere, a prep powerhouse in La Porte, Ind., also home to long-time teammate and rival, Isaiah Stewart.
Now rated as the No. 116 player in the country in the 247Sports composite, Drumgoole’s list of potential suitors included Northwestern, Connecticut, Miami, Auburn, Georgia and Georgetown.
During the Bob Kirk Invitational on the first weekend of February, Creighton, Oregon, Illinois and Wake Forest were among the colleges there to scout the rising small forward.
He was able to take visits to South Carolina in September and the Gophers in November before spurning them for Pitt. The Panthers presented him an intriguing landing spot for Drumgoole as campus is just a little over four hours away from Rochester.
Pittsburgh is also coached by longtime Duke assistant and first-year head coach Jeff Capel, who was named the best recruiter by ESPN in 2016 and landed the Panthers their best class in five years last year.
Just days before visiting campus Drumgoole laid out what would be the most important factors in securing his pledge.
“They’re trying to sell to me how I can come in and impact the program. The role I would play would be major, but I’m trying to stay level-headed and make sure I have a good relationship with the coaches and players,” Drumgoole said.
“When I do take visits, I’ll make sure the role on the team is one that I want and one that I’m not going to regret.”
Drumgoole will be able fill a number of roles at Pittsburgh. Already known as a reliable shooter, he has seen his overall game round out while being a key cog for the Super 25 No. 1 Lakers.
“He’s grown being a playmaker and impacting the game in a lot of ways. He could always shoot the ball and he’s very good at putting his head down and getting to spots,” La Lumiere coach Patrick Holmes said.
“His body has changed, too, because he’s with our strength coach four days out of the week in the preseason and that was great for him. He’s gotten a little quicker laterally and more explosive. He’s only 17 and should probably be a high school junior just based on age… He’s going to be a steal.”
During the Bob Kirk Invitational, Drumgoole took time running the Lakers’ offense as a lead guard, was one of the team’s top marksman and was reliable on the defensive end.
He hit the game-winning free throws against No. 12 Wasatch Academy, continuing a trend of rising to the occasion in pressure-packed moments.
While playing with Stewart and the Albany City Rocks, Drumgoole came into his own at the Nike Peach Jam tournament. With hundreds of college coaches analyzing his every move, he developed a new level of confidence that he needed to excel with La Lumiere.
“The Peach Jam did me a good deed. It’s one of the greatest tournaments I’ve ever played in and I would recommend playing in it to anybody that wants to pursue a career in basketball,” Drumgoole said. “It’s just the atmosphere being there, knowing there are hundreds of college coaches on the sidelines.
“They’re watching you and you’re out there playing like, ‘I can’t make any mistakes’ and I have to go out there and give it my all. That’s what I did and I played my behind off and coaches recognized it.”
It was no surprise to Stewart, who is committed to the University of Washington, and has played with and against Drumgoole since they were kids.
“It’s great to have a guy like him, we’re really close off the court. I felt like it was great spot for me and I think he was in the same situation I was,” Stewart said. “He was outgrowing Irondequoit and I told him go ahead and come down to LaLu and we made it happen.
“He’s doing great, against Montverde Academy (Florida) he had 20 points and went off in front of the coaches. I’m happy he made the decision to come down here with us.”