Steph who? Jack Gibbs making a name for himself at Davidson
But enough with the Stephen Curry stuff already.
The comparison is raised in virtually every feature story written about Gibbs, a 6-0 senior averaging an Atlantic 10-leading 23.1 points a game this season for the Wildcats (7-4), who host Richmond in their conference opener Saturday on ASN.
Gibbs, fourth in the country in scoring, also topped the A-10 in that category last year (23.5) and was seventh nationally. So naturally he’s … just ... like … you-know-who.
Only he isn’t.
“Steph’s an unbelievable player,” Gibbs said. “I’m grateful for the comparison. … I also don’t see the comparison.”
He has met Curry, notably after Gibbs made his first 14 shots en route to a 41-point bombardment of Charlotte early last season, and of course reveres the Golden State star, who led Davidson to the Elite Eight in 2008.
But comparing Gibbs to Curry very much misses the point, and not just because nearly everyone pales in comparison to the two-time NBA MVP. (Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, another player Gibbs admires, is one exception.)
It’s also because Gibbs is his own guy — a guy not only of considerable on-court skill but also admirable depth. A guy who has gone on church-sponsored mission trips to the Dominican Republic. A guy on course to earn his degree in political science next spring – he also minors in communications — who is giving some thought to following in his dad’s footsteps and becoming an attorney when his basketball days are done.
And a guy who, as an aside, told Sports Illustrated last February that he excels at a strategy-based board game called “Settlers of Catan,” a favorite among the Wildcats.
“It gets pretty competitive," Gibbs told SI. "… I would say I'm one of the better players on the team.”
Mostly, though, he stands out at the on-court cat-and-mouse game. And he has been particularly effective over his last half-dozen outings, beginning with his season-high 33-point barrage in a victory at Mercer on Nov. 29.
He is averaging 24.5 points a game in that stretch, including a 30-point effort at North Carolina and a 27-pointer against Hartford on Wednesday, while making exactly half of his 60 3-point attempts.
Overall he is shooting 40.9% from the arc and 43.1% from the floor while working in concert with Davidson’s only other double-figure scorer, junior forward Peyton Aldridge (20.8). The Wildcats have also stepped it up on the defensive end, Gibbs said, leading him to believe they are entering conference play on an uptick.
They are looking to make their second NCAA Tournament appearance in his career, the other having come two years ago. And he is looking to wring as much as he can out of the time he has left.
“It went by fast,” he said.
He grew up in Westerville, Ohio, just outside Columbus, and rooted for all the teams in his home state. Still does, in fact.
“Even the Browns,” he said.
That led to a small degree of ambivalence during last year’s NBA Finals, when Curry’s Warriors lost in seven games to the Cavaliers, with Irving and LeBron James providing the pivotal plays in the clincher.
“I want Steph to do really well and put up MVP numbers,” Gibbs said. “I also wanted Cleveland to get a championship. I wanted the Cavs to break the curse.”
His own life has been blessed, and he has happily paid it forward. His grandfather, who played football at Ohio State and served as principal at Columbus East High School, has a street in that city named in his honor: Jack Gibbs Blvd.
Jack the basketball player is Jack III, following not only his grandfather but his dad, Jack Jr. The youngest Jack Gibbs was considering mid-major schools even before he tore an ACL his junior year at Westerville North, and ultimately picked Davidson over Akron and Creighton.
He said he liked the family feel, which is not mere lip service. Coach Bob McKillop asks his players to help him vet recruits, and if they feel a guy won’t fit in, McKillop moves on.
“He wants to surround us with great people,” Gibbs said.
It has resulted in an unusually close team; Gibbs, for instance, considers Aldridge one of his best friends, which is not always the case with two scorers of their caliber. There can be jealousy over touches. There can be resentment.
That’s not how either appears to be wired. And Gibbs, for his part, has a giving spirit that appears to extend off the court.
He has made two trips to the Dominican lasting a week each, one coming last summer and the other after his freshman year. He helped build a church near a town called Bonao -- a place, he said, “where the police wouldn’t even go after dark” — and connected with kids who remain Facebook friends.
The connection others have chosen to make between him and Curry appears to be no less durable. He appreciates it; he really does. It’s just not apt, that’s all.
Photo courtesy Davidson Athletics