UNO’s JT Gibson, standing on the sideline a couple of weeks ago, turned his eyes toward the court and watched as a few of his teammates warmed up before a workout.
He couldn’t join in. And it was killing his competitive soul.
This is the guy who often outlasts the campus facilities staffers — even on those nights when fall sports events require administrators to stay past 11 p.m., Gibson’s still in the gym. UNO coach Derrin Hansen hears about it all the time.
But Gibson suffered a broken foot in a pick-up game back in June. He had surgery. He wore a protective boot for eight weeks.
The 6-foot-3 senior guard, who started all 32 games last year and averaged 12.9 points per contest, was still rehabbing his way back when his teammates all returned to campus on Aug. 26 and began individual workouts to prep for the start of the preseason.
“I’ll be fine,” Gibson said as the Mavs players started ratcheting up their intensity level ahead of a drillwork session. “But, yeah, I’ve been itching to get back out there.”
He will indeed be good to go on Tuesday when UNO conducts its first official practice of the preseason. The Mavs will need him.
Gibson and the rest of the veterans have six weeks to help nurture and mold the team’s young pieces (the roster has just four upperclassmen). It’s the top priority for Gibson, even though he also recognizes that the departures of Zach Jackson and Mitch Hahn mean he’ll have to elevate his own game as well.
“Our guys off the bench, I know, are going to have a huge impact on the game this year,” Gibson said. “And I know I will have a bigger role this year, being a senior and being a guy last year who could score the ball. But I also have to lead.”
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His traits on the court seem to suggest that setting the tone won’t be an issue.
According to Ken Pomeroy’s data, Gibson ranked second in the Summit League in turnover rate and ranked fifth in fewest fouls committed during conference action. He embraced the team’s defensive scheme, too, leading the squad in steals.
Plus, the threat of Gibson’s jumper — he shot 39.2% from 3-point range last year and made 76 total triples (only five league players hit more) — opened up scoring windows for others. He was second on the team in assists.
“He’s always in the right spot defensively, and he wants to get stops,” Hansen said. “He’ll create some on his own, but he makes other people better by knowing that if you leave him open, he’s going to make jump shots.”
Gibson just wants to do more for the Mavs, who fell just short of their ultimate goals last year as they finished second in the Summit League standings and were runners-up in the conference tournament.
The urgency’s heightened, he said. Being forced to take three months off ahead of your final collegiate season tends to generate that sort of response from a hooper.
He’s just glad to be back on the court now.
“I think we can have another big year,” Gibson said. “It’s in the making. We just have to keep working. Take every day as an opportunity to get better. That’s the mentality that we have to have.”