Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Pitt’s Gibbs, Kentucky’s Jones, Xavier’s Holloway to Return to Campus
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Good news for Pitt basketball fans.
Ashton Gibbs will return to campus for his senior year instead of remaining in the NBA Draft.
That should automatically make Pitt a contender for another Big East regular season title and the first Final Four of the Jamie Dixon Era.
“We can be very good,” Gibbs said by text. “[We have] a lot of good young players that are going to surprise people.”
A native of Scotch Plains, N.J., Gibbs made the decision after working out Saturday before 29 NBA teams at a combine at the Nets’ facility. He had to decide by Sunday whether to return to campus or not.
The general consensus among NBA executives was that the 6-foot-2 Gibbs was not ready to come out.
“I am extremely excited that Ashton will return to the court for us next year,” Dixon said.
“We encouraged and supported Ashton in his pursuit of NBA Draft possibilities. Ashton and I had numerous discussions dating back to last year and during the process. Anytime you are an All-Big East First Team player, the professional field is something we encourage our players to look into. Ashton is a tremendous representative for the University of Pittsburgh. He embodies everything you want in a student-athlete and has always made decisions for the right reasons. This is just another example.”
“In discussing my options the last couple of weeks with my family and Coach Dixon, I feel that it is in my best interest to return to Pitt for my senior season,” Gibbs said. “The NBA can wait a year. I look forward to continuing the success that we’ve established here at Pitt and finish my collegiate career with all of my teammates and fellow senior Nasir Robinson. It will also be extra special to earn my degree.”
As one of the nation’s top shooters and scorers in 2010-11, Gibbs earned AP All-America honorable mention, USBWA and NABC All-District honors while becoming just the ninth player in school history to be selected to the All-Big East First Team.
He ranked third among NCAA Division I leaders in 3-point field goal percentage (49.0 percent), fifth in 3-point field goals made per game (3.3) and 18th in free throw percentage (88.9 percent).
He also led the Panthers in scoring for the second straight season (16.8 ppg.) and also set a Pitt season record for 3-point field goals made (102).
A two-time Big East Academic All-Star, Gibbs enters his senior season ranked among Pitt’s career leaders in scoring (1,207 points, 23rd) and 3-point field goals made (216, 4th).
Pitt returns two starters (Gibbs and Robinson) and seven of its top-10 letterwinners from a squad that won the Big East regular season title outright with a 15-3 record, finished 28-6 overall, earned a No. 1 seed upon entering the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 10th consecutive season.
Their four-man recruiting class is headlined by 6-9 McDonald’s All-American Khem Birch of Notre Dame Prep.
KENTUCKY’S JONES TO RETURNKentucky freshman Terrence Jones will also return for his sophomore season.
Jones, a 6-foot-9 forward from Portland, Ore., was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year by the league coaches and SEC Newcomer of the Year by the Associated Press.
He averaged 15.7 points, while pulling down 8.8 rebounds per game, ranking seventh and first in the SEC respectively.
“Last year was an unbelievable experience, but we left a lot on the table,” Jones said. “I’ve decided to come back and help us get back to the Final Four and bring the Big Blue Nation a National Championship.”
Jones set the Kentucky freshman single-game scoring record with 35 points against Auburn. He also posted 13 double-doubles, second most among UK freshmen all-time and his eight 20-point games was fourth most by a freshman in program history.
“I’m very happy for Terrence and his family because he did the right thing for his future but he had to come to that conclusion,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “He told me he wanted to continue enjoying the college experience and I told him that was fine by me.”
Despite the loss of Brandon Knight, Kentucky should challenge for an NCAA championship with the return of Jones, fellow frosh Doron Lamb of Queens and junior Darius Miller, plus the addition of the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation featuring 6-7 wing Michael Gilchrist of Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick.
Junior DeAndre Liggins attended the NBA combine Saturday at the Nets’ facility and must decide by Sunday.
XAVIER’S HOLLOWAY BACK TO CAMPUSXavier junior guard Tu Holloway of Hempstead, N.Y. will also return to campus.
“I think I speak for the entire Xavier Community when I say I am excited to have Tu Holloway return for his senior season,” said Xavier head coach Chris Mack
“Tu Holloway’s progression as a player over the last three years has been remarkable. Since his first day on the Xavier campus, Tu has set the bar extremely high in terms of the expectations he has placed on himself as a player.
Holloway led Xavier in scoring at 19.7 ppg. (second in the Atlantic 10), assists at 5.4 apg. (first in the A-10) and free throw percentage (second in A-10 at .870).
**Gibbs Brothers nearing decisions
**Tennessee’s Hopson staying in Draft
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.