Van Buren’s Brayden Gilmore felt the full impact of new basketball coach Brad Autry’s coaching energy during his senior season.

“I didn’t stop riding him from July 8 to March 5,” Autry said. “He improved as much or more than any other player I’ve coached in my career, and it’s been a long career, in a seven-month period. I believe his best basketball is ahead of him.”

Gilmore signed to continue his basketball career at Arkansas Tech on Saturday in front of many family and friends at his home church of First Assembly of God in Muldrow.

Gilmore will team up with Alma’s Cejay Mann and three other in-state players as part of a five-player in-state recruiting class for new Arkansas Tech basketball coach Mark Downey.

Downey first recruited Gilmore to Northeastern State in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, before he took over at Arkansas Tech on April 29.

“He started recruiting me my junior year at Northeastern State, and recruited me and Cejay,” Gilmore said. “When he went to Tech, I talked to Cejay and we both decided to move on to Arkansas Tech together so we could play together.”

Downey wanted to make the 6-5 Gilmore part of his first class in Russellville.

“He liked that I could get the rebound and push the ball and that I could shoot and attack,” Gilmore said. “He’s big on defense, which Coach Autry is big on defense, too.”

Gilmore flourished under Autry’s demanding practices.

“From the first practice to the very last practice of my senior year, it was as hard as it could be every single day,” Gilmore said. “That changed my work ethic and my mentality.”

It all prepared Gilmore for the next level.

“Coach Autry knew Coach Downey, and they have similar coaching styles,” Gilmore said. ‘I really like playing for Coach Autry. Playing under him, I really grew. That helped me develop and be prepared for college.”

Gilmore was a model of consistency for the Pointers during the 2019-2020 season. He averaged 15 points and seven rebounds during nonconference play, and 15 points and seven rebounds through 14 conference games in Van Buren’s final season in the 7A-West.

“He had to carry a huge load for us,” Autry said. “I realized the first practice that he was going to carry a huge scoring load for this team. He had to guard the best interior player on the other team and had to guard some guards.”

Gilmore showed his versatility throughout the season.

In Van Buren’s 63-50 win over Rogers Heritage that essentially earned a state tournament berth, Gilmore ended the game with an emphatic dunk.

In a 59-37 win over Springdale, Gilmore capped senior night with a 3-pointer, a conventional three-point play, and a slam that started an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter that sealed the win.

It was a dunk against Little Rock Mills in a 55-46 loss in the Hoops for Hunger Classic in Russellville in December, though, that really showed his heart and his progression, according to Autry. It was a play that Autry highlighted on Saturday when he spoke before Gilmore signed his letter of intent.

“He embraced what I was trying to do, turned the corner and became what I wanted him to at the end of the year,” Autry said.

Gilmore and fellow graduated seniors Maury Newton, Tiyese Castleberry and Blake Gilmore guided the Pointers to their first appearance in the Class 7A state tournament in their high school career and left the program on a good foundation.

“It felt good to go to the state tournament,” Brayden Gilmore said. “The way we did in the second half of conference, everybody stepped up and played a big role. We left it on a good note.”