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Player Previews: For Grant Gibbs, Health is Step One

Grant Gibbs has battled injuries for the past two years.  Now that he is back at full strength, what should Gonzaga fans expect of him?
Grant Gibbs has battled injuries for the past two years. Now that he is back at full strength, what should Gonzaga fans expect of him?

When Grant Gibbs committed to Gonzaga before his senior year of high school, he was one of the most praised point guards in the entire nation.  Having narrowed his list down to Gonzaga, Iowa, Iowa State, and Wisconsin, Grant decided against the Big Ten and went to a place where he felt like he "fit".  We are now two years removed from that decision and Grant's basketball career has not exactly traveled the smoothest path.  In January of 2008, Grant suffered a broken wrist and a deep cut above his eye after being undercut while going up for a dunk.  The injury failed to heal properly so Gibbs had to have two operations on the wrist before it was healed.  Upon his arrival at Gonzaga last summer, he was as healthy as he had been in months and anxious to get back on the court.  On November 10th, less than three weeks before Old Spice Classic, Gibbs fell victim to a torn labrum in his shoulder and was forced to get surgery.

The necessary time to fully heal a torn labrum is six months.  While Grant was definitely a candidate to redshirt last season, that six months of recovery time took him away from a very key part of his college development.  The goal of a redshirt season is to add strength to ones frame and get better on the court by practicing with the team.  As we look towards the 2009-10 season, Grant might be the most overlooked player on the roster because of his injury problems.  Whether this is fair or not is up to debate but it sounds like Grant is as healthy as he has ever been.  He was able to get limited work in with the team in March and has been working out hard since then to get himself back to old form.  Like the Gonzaga team he is a part of this season, Grant is not one of those guys who will be getting a whole lot of hype before the year starts but we think that Gonzaga fans will be pleasantly surprised by the contribution he makes this season.

continue reading more about Grant after the jump...

When we talked to Coach Leon Rice and Coach Giacoletti, we made sure to ask them about the redshirt players from a year ago.  Both Gibbs and fellow redshirt Andy Poling have dealt with serious issues during their high school careers that have hampered their time on the court.  Both coaches alluded to the fact that they were disappointed that Grant was unable to truly fulfill his redshirt because of the injury.   Looking at the official roster for this season, it lists him as 6'4'', 204 pounds.  What this means is that he has added around 15 pounds in the past two years which is a pretty tremendous accomplishment considering the severity of the injuries he has incurred.  What he missed out on last year, however, was the chance to understand division one basketball by practicing with two of the best guards in the nation in Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin.  Playing against those two day in day out would have been huge because they are not only two of the most talented guards, but also two of the most physically imposing guards.  With Jeremy Pargo's departure, some of that practice competition has been lost but Matt's still there, Steven Gray is no slouch, and Demetri Goodson and GJ Vilarino will test his quicks everyday. 

While people may tend to forget about Grant with the arrival of the much heralded 2009 class, it is quite important to remember just how good of a player Grant was before Gonzaga.  When he was injured during his senior season, Gibbs was one of the best point guards in the country.  He was among the top-15 rated point guards in the country by Rivals and  He averaged 15 points, five assists, and five rebounds during his junior year of high school and really made his statement to the nation during his AAU tenure.  This how's head scout Jerry Meyer broke down Gibbs' abilities:

Blessed with length for his point guard position and an astute basketball IQ, Gibbs made a splash on the travel circuit during the spring. He shoots the ball well and has deceptive quickness, but it is his court vision as a passer that makes him a special player. Improving his strength and lateral quickness will be important for his future success on the next level.

There is no doubt that this kid is a player and reading that breakdown, it's easy to see the comparisons that Gibbs drew to Matt Bouldin.  Bouldin impressed Gonzaga fans right away with his court vision and passing ability.  They also both possess outstanding size for the guard position and are true combo guards.  Even though Grant has been injury plagued for the past two years, he has now been healthy for about six months.  There is no way that a kid of his size and abilities does not make a sizable impact this season. 

The question now is that with Bouldin, Gray, Goodson, Gibbs, Arop, and Vilarino all battling for time on the floor, how does Grant fit in to this equation.  This may surprise some people but I believe that Grant will be the first guard off the bench in Mark Few's rotation.  Grant has been praised for the way he plays the game and I think that will go a long way this season.  He competes with a mean streak and has no problem with getting physical on the court, as evidenced by his injuries.  Like Andy Poling, who I also expect to make major a major impact this season, Grant has an understanding of a Mark Few offense.  He's been around these guys and is ready to compete.  GJ Vilarino may have a quicker first step and Mangisto Arop may be a better overall athlete but I think Matt Bouldin has proved that a heady guard with the ability to get to the rack can flourish in this offense.  Also like Bouldin, Grant is a pure combo guard.  He can bring the ball up and he has the size to play the off guard which will give him a leg up against guys like Vilarino and Arop who will be battling for minutes as well.

Like I said in the title, the key for Grant Gibbs is to stay healthy and with over a month until the season starts, nothing is guaranteed.  The hype for the 2009 recruiting class is huge but there aren't many players that we are looking forward to seeing more than Grant Gibbs.