The highest-scoring player ever at Davidson has a prediction about the highest-scoring player on this season’s team.
"I just know he's a gamer," Stephen Curry, the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, told me recently about Davidson senior point guard Jack Gibbs. "He knows how to play. ...I'm sure we will see Jack repping some NBA jersey next year."
Gibbs isn't Curry -- nobody is -- but he's the closest thing Davidson (5-2) has headed into Wednesday's game at No. 7 North Carolina (8-1). One of the best point guards in the country, Gibbs would need to play a tremendous game for Davidson to have any chance at pulling off an upset in the Smith Center (9 p.m., ESPN2).
"Games like these are one of the reasons I came to Davidson," said Gibbs, whose Wildcats lost 98-65 last season against the Tar Heels. "They put us on a huge stage where we can play against teams like North Carolina."
Averaging 23.3 points and ranked seventh in the country in scoring, Gibbs is equally adept at driving the ball and shooting the 3-pointer. Unfortunately, he won't get to play against another of the nation's top point guards Wednesday, as the Tar Heels' Joel Berry will miss the game with an ankle injury.
Gibbs knows basketball should be fun and smiles so much on the court that you know he knows. Davidson coach Bob McKillop puts pressure on him -- just as McKillop has always done his point guards -- and Gibbs usually comes through.
There are times, though, when Gibbs' shot selection is iffy.
"With his talent level, he gets tempted by the demons to do something out of the system and take a shortcut rather than concentrate on the details," McKillop said. "His natural toughness makes those demons even more inviting. But he's making a very determined effort to concentrate on our three Ds: details, decision-making and discipline. Jack has freedom, but discipline comes before freedom."
Said Gibbs of his relationship with McKillop, Davidson's coach the past 28 years: "He sees greatness in you sometimes when you don't see greatness in yourself. ...He can get the very best out of you, every last drop. That's because he's hard on you, but that's out of him caring for you."
Huge Ohio State fan
The first player McKillop ever named team captain at Davidson while a sophomore, Gibbs is on track to graduate in May with a degree in political science. He is from an accomplished family in Ohio -- his father is a lawyer and his mother recently retired as an assistant principal at an elementary school. Gibbs says he might consider law school when his basketball career ends.
An enormous Ohio State fan whose grandfather played football for the Buckeyes, Gibbs grew up 15 minutes from the Ohio State campus. His relative lack of size at 6-foot and a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee that forced him miss most of his high school junior season meant the Buckeyes -- and most other big schools -- never recruited him.
Davidson assistant coach Matt McKillop (Bob's son) saw Gibbs play the high school game in which he tore his ACL. Matt McKillop called Gibbs the next day and told him Davidson still wanted him.
"Some people backed off me," Gibbs said. "Davidson never did." Gibbs ultimately chose the Wildcats over Creighton, Akron and Wichita State.
‘All you can ask for’
Davidson has made the NCAA tournament once in Gibbs' three seasons, when he was a sophomore in 2015. He dearly wants to go out as a senior with another berth in the NCAAs and believes Davidson can.
"We're probably the deepest team that's been here in my four years,” Gibbs said. “And we have more of a defensive mindset, too.”
Gibbs has had several bouts of adversity at Davidson. A knee injury cost him seven games as a sophomore. He struggled with a shoulder injury earlier this season that altered his shooting touch and forces him to wear a brace now.
Most significantly, his mother will seriously ill earlier this season and the Davidson community rallied around the family. She is better and has traveled to several of Gibbs' games this season.
When he gets hot shooting, Gibbs can soar higher than almost anyone Davidson has had other than Curry. Since 1979, Curry and Gibbs are the only Davidson players to score at least 40 points in a game. Curry did it six times; Gibbs has done it three.
When the season ends, Gibbs hopes to make an NBA roster . "For sure, he can," Curry said of Gibbs. "Everybody talks about his (lack of) size and all that and I just kind of laugh. It didn't stop people before him. He'll have a shot."
That's all Gibbs wants -- a shot. More specifically, he wants the last shot in any Davidson game this season that will be decided in the final seconds.
"I am not going to shy away from the ball when it's crunch time," Gibbs said. "I'd like to have it in my hands and be in position to make the pass or take the shot at the end of the game that decides it. That's really all you can ask for."