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.
Ashton Gibbs began his summer thinking he might end up in the NBA.
As the summer comes to a close, the Pittsburgh guard is hoping to make the final cut for Team USA in the World University Games.
“There’s a lot of good players so it’s going to be tough making the team, but hopefully I’ll make it,” Gibbs, a Scotch Plains, N.J., native, told SNY.tv by phone from Colorado Springs, Colo.
Gibbs is one of five Big East players among the 14 finalists for the team. The official 12-member roster will be announced prior to Aug. 8, when the team departs for China.
The other Big East players among the finalists are Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine, UConn guard Shabazz Napier, West Virginia forward Aaric Murray and Notre Dame forward Tim Abromaitis.
“I think it’s a great group,” said USA and Purdue University head mentor Matt Painter, who previously assisted the 2009 USA U19 World Championship Team to a gold medal.
Gibbs and Painter have a connection from the 2009 team and the Pittsburgh guard hopes to win another gold medal with the Purdue coach.
“We have a lot of balance,” Painter added. “I think on the interior we have some shot-blockers, we have some athletes, guys that can really go and get the basketball and some real good shooters. We have some good, interchangeable parts, and a lot of talent, both returning talent and young. I’m really excited about the mix we have.”
After averaging 16.8 points as a junior, Gibbs tested the NBA waters but soon realized that NBA executives and scouts didn’t think he was ready to make the jump.
Now, with an NBA lockout in effect, Gibbs might be in the best position possible. He can return to Pitt for his senior season, work on becoming more of a pure point guard and hopefully improve his stock for the 2012 NBA Draft.
“This year I really want to go into college with a team mindset rather than an individual mindset,” Gibbs said. “I think if you have team success all the individual awards take care of themselves.
“I really want just to win as many games as I can, get as far as I can in the Big East Tournament and, of course, the NCAA Tournament and the Final Four and a national championship.”
Gibbs and his Pitt teammates had expectations of reaching the first Final Four of the Jamie Dixon Era last season after winning the Big East regular season title. But they were upset by eventual NCAA runner-up Butler in the second round during a game that had a dramatic, and strange, last few seconds.
Gone from that team are veterans Brad Wanamaker, Gary McGhee and Gilbert Brown, so players like Travon Woodall, Dante Taylor and J.J. Moore will have to step up.
“We’re definitely going to have somebody to step up,” Gibbs said. “Someone is going to step up regardless because Coach Dixon has high expectations for this team this year, so we’re really going to play hard and play as a team and go from there.”
After spending time in the altitude of Colorado, and potentially making the trek to China, Gibbs says he’ll be ready to help the Panthers.
“I guarantee you after this trip I’ll be in shape,” he said.
WORLD UNIVERSITY GAME FINALISTSTim Abromaitis (Notre Dame)
Marcus Denmon (Missouri)
Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh)
Draymond Green (Michigan State)
JaMychal Green (Alabama)
Scoop Jardine (Syracuse)
John Jenkins (Vanderbilt)
Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara)
Greg Mangano (Yale)
Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota)
Ray McCallum (Detroit Mercy)
Darius Miller (Kentucky)
Aaric Murray (West Virginia)
Shabazz Napier (Connecticut)
**Jardine expecting big year for Syracuse
**Big East guards competing for time with Team USA
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.