Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top Pre-Season Top 25 Player Countdown for the 2016-17 season. Each day, we’ll be publishing a new article counting down our best 25 players for the coming season. Today, we feature #1 Jack Gibbs of Davidson College.
From a reveal standpoint, this article is relatively anti-climactic – did anyone honestly think that we would leave Jack Gibbs off of this list? I think not. However, that is where the “bad news” ends, because this article is a celebration of one the best players to step on a basketball court with an “A10” patch on their jersey of all time.
Yes, you read that right. “Of all time”. Personally, I do not think that statement is hyperbole. I have been fortunate enough to pay close attention to and witness games, seasons, and careers of some of the best players of all time in various sports. For me personally, Chipper Jones, Denard Robinson, and Stephen Curry are on that list, albeit on different levels (careers for some, individual game performances for others). However when I look at my personal pantheon of players, I think the most apt comparison for Jack Gibbs is someone who fits in a little more with the topic of this blog, and that is Trey Burke. I, as a University of Michigan fan growing up, had the privilege of witnessing Burke lead his team to the 2013 national title game against Louisville, which capped off one of the best individual seasons in college basketball history. That year Trey Burke took home the Naismith Award, the John Wooden Award, the AP National Player of the Year Award, and much more. He was the undisputed best player in college basketball in the 2012-13 season. The electric buzz that took over the crowd when Trey Burke stepped on the court is the same one that is palpable at Belk Area when Jack Gibbs walks out for warmups.
That feeling doesn’t stop with warmups, however. When watching Gibbs play, whether on TV, a grainy internet stream, or in person at Belk Area, the feeling that you are witnessing something incredible is unshakeable. He’s going to go down in the record books as an all-time Davidson great. He should be in the record books as an all-time Atlantic 10 great. That feeling, at its core, is why Jack Gibbs is more than just the best player in a Preseason rankings list – he is the chance for each and every one of us to witness someone who could possibly be categorized as a “player of a lifetime”. Obviously, that categorization is extremely subjective, especially on an individual basis, and will only be proven true over time. That being said, what I do know is that Davidson has something special in number 12. That buzz of energy when he has the ball in his hands, squares up for a three, or even checks into the game is something I can only attribute to a select few players that I have witnessed. If you don’t believe me, buy a ticket for a game this season, and I am sure you will see for yourself.
What He’s Done
After taking over the “main dude” role from Tyler Kalinoski last season, Jack Gibbs boasted an impressive stat line as the main cog in the Bob McKillop offensive machine. This isn’t to undermine any of the achievements from his sophomore campaign – a year he shot 42.5% from three and scored 16.2 points per game – but Gibbs’ junior campaign was so impressive I’m just going to skip straight to that. The basic stats from last year speak for themselves: 23.5 points, 4.9 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 35.5 minutes played per game. From an Atlantic 10 perspective, Jack Gibbs lives up to to the #1 overall ranking. Considering conference play only, Gibbs was used in the most possessions of any player (35.5%) and still boasted the #2 assist rate in the conference (32.5%). While Jack Gibbs is known as being a prolific scorer and for his acrobatic assists, he plays stingy defense and gets to the line: he was 3rd in the conference in steals. However Gibbs’ foul and free throw stats are something to behold: he was top 10 in the conference in committing the fewest number of fouls per 40 minutes (9th, 2.3 fouls per 40), while being the most fouled player in the conference, drawing 6.8 fouls per 40 minutes played. That disparity is a true game changer. These weren’t empty trips to the line either, as Gibbs used his now famous quick free throw taking technique to knock down 86.4% of his foul shots, good for 4th in the conference. With that many trips to the line, you would think that camera crews would get used to the quick release and not have to frantically pan to the basket every time only to see the ball going through the net, but I digress.
What He’ll Do
For Davidson fans, hopefully Gibbs will do the exact same thing he did last year: lead the team, score tons of points, and win a lot of games. He eclipsed 40 points on three separate occasions last year, including on the road against rival Charlotte. There will undoubtedly be some games this season that will require (or lend themselves to) Jack Gibbs to play some “hero-ball” and attempt to put up another 40+ points. However, one thing that we can all count on is Gibbs’ ability to manufacture points for both himself and his teammates. In games that he might not have a perfect shooting touch, Gibbs will get to the line more and dish out assists to his teammates – this ability to be a multi-dimensioned player and have parts of his game to fall back on is one of the characteristics that sets Gibbs apart from the rest of the conference. Oh, and I did mention that he’s going to score, right? He’s going to score. A lot.
Previously: #2 Jaylen Adams