DAVIDSON, N.C. (AP) — The last time Davidson had a high-scoring point guard, he led the Wildcats to the brink of the Final Four and went on to become a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player.
Seven years after baby-faced Stephen Curry electrified a nation in the NCAA Tournament, another top-notch shooter has emerged for the Wildcats in Jack Gibbs.
Gibbs, a senior, leads the Atlantic-10 in scoring for the second straight season and is tied for 10th in the country with 23.4 points per game. Last season, Gibbs finished sixth overall, averaging 23.5 points per game.
Longtime Davidson coach Bob McKillop won’t compare Gibbs to Curry — “Steph Curry is a once in a lifetime player, so there’s no comparison,” he said before the season. But he does think Gibbs could become the first Davidson player in the NBA since Curry, the seventh overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in 2009.
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“I certainly do,” McKillop said. “I am a great optimistic and a great dreamer, but I think Jack Gibbs is going to prove himself worthy of playing at the next level.”
Gibbs probably won’t appear on 2017 NBA mock drafts, but he has been named to the Naismith Trophy 50-man watch list. He’s also a candidate for the Bob Cousy Award as the country’s top point guard and the John Wooden Award as college basketball’s most outstanding player.
Gibbs scored 33 points on 8-of-14 shooting from 3-point range in Davidson’s 78-57 road win against Mercer on Tuesday night.
After hopefully guiding the Wildcats back to the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2015, Gibbs has his eye on a pro career.
“That is the plan right now,” Gibbs said at the team’s preseason media day. “That has been my dream since I was a kid and I’m trying to put myself in that position. I think we are going to have a pretty good year and I think that will help me fulfill that dream.”
Davidson (5-1) is off to a solid start and figures to be competitive in its third season in the A-10 behind Gibbs, who battled back from a shoulder injury he sustained in practice leading up to the season.
Curry has seen Gibbs in action a few times, including once in Charlotte last season while the Golden State Warriors were in town for a game against the Hornets. Gibbs rose to the occasion, making his first 14 shots and finishing with 41 points, including 6 of 7 from 3-point range as the Wildcats hammered the Charlotte 49ers 109-74.
Curry was impressed.
“He’s obviously really talented, really skilled with the ball, a competitor and a gamer,” Curry said Wednesday. “So he’ll finish out his college career I’m sure on a high note and have a lot of opportunity on this level to get another Wildcat in the NBA. Obviously his senior year is going to be a big year for him.”
Curry invited Gibbs to his basketball camp for top college guards, where he had a chance to learn from the former NBA champion.
“He taught about how to get a shot off,” Gibbs said. “He may not always be the quickest guy or most athletic but he can score better than pretty much anybody in the league.”
Not that Gibbs needs much help finding the bottom of the net.
He scored 40 points in a game three times last season, and 35 or more seven times. Six of his 10 30-point performances came against Atlantic-10 competition in 2015.
McKillop said Gibbs, a big Ohio State Buckeyes fan from Westerville, Ohio, is playing the best he’s played in his four years at Davidson.
The Wildcats are looking to bounce back after getting bounced from the first round of the NIT by Florida State last season.
McKillop believes this team has the talent to do that.
“The depth and versatility is at the highest level we’ve ever had, combined, since I’ve been here,” said McKillop, now in his 28th season at Davidson.
That means Gibbs may not have to shoulder as much of the scoring load with teammates like versatile 6-foot-7 forward Peyton Aldridge (19.5 points, 7. 2 rebounds per game), forward Will Magarity and guard Jordan Watkins (8.3 ppg each).
Gibbs’ size — he’s just 6-foot, 195 pounds — could hinder his chance of being drafted, but McKillop said he has several intangibles, including an incredible work ethic.
“One of the coaches in the league made a comment about how he sat on his left hand because he can’t dribble with his left hand and that hangs over Jack’s locker,” McKillop said. “Jack has that reminder that they don’t think he can dribble with his left hand, so he’s really worked with his left hand.”
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.
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