On Saturday, we found out Pitt's star guard Ashton Gibbs intendeds to return to the Panthers next season rather than declare for the NBA Draft. Gibbs, who will be a senior in 2011-2012 averaged 16.8 points per game for Pitt in 2010-2011 as well as 2.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds. He was also lethal from the 3-point line as he hit 49% or his shots from the arc on the year.
"I was very close to keeping my name in," Gibbs said Saturday night. "When I entered the draft I entered it to stay in. It's what I set my mind to. There was no point to just go through the motions. But in the end, I felt like the NBA could wait for a year."
Gibbs did not disclose much of what NBA scouts told him in terms of feedback other than to say he has to "work on his body."
"It was nothing in particular," he said. "I'm really not worried about the NBA now. Right now, I'm a college player and I'll worry about the NBA next year."
Looks like his focus is already on improving next season as the Panthers look to rebound from a disappointing showing in the NCAA Tournament.
In other Pitt basketball news this evening, it looks like Maryland expressed interest in hiring head coach Jamie Dixon for the same position in College Park, but Dixon removed his name from consideration for that vacant position according to Jerry DiPaola of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The Terrapins, of course, will be replacing the retiring Gary Williams and reportedly have deep interest in Pittsburgh native and Pitt alumnus Sean Miller, currently Arizona's head coach. If Miller leaves the desert, expect the Dixon rumor mill to fire up once again given his West Coast ties. Expect Dixon to stat right where he is, however. Even though Dixon has repeatedly shown loyalty to Pitt, now that he's become such a hot coaching commodity, his name will likely show up as a candidate in any high profile coaching search. Pitt fans will just have to get used to that. It's the price of success.
It's been a rough couple of weeks for Pitt basketball fans since the Panthers' third round NCAA Tournament loss against the Butler Bulldogs back in March. From the crushing disappointment of unreached expectations to the cold, hard reality of having to replace three senior starters for 2011-2012, the days following the loss were difficult. Then came news in mid-April that sophomore guard J.J. Richardson intended to transfer from the program.
Perhaps worst of all, star guard Ashton Gibbs has been testing the NBA Draft waters for the past few months, leaving Pitt fans wondering if Jamie Dixon and the coaching staff would have to work even harder replacing departed talent.
Good news came Saturday, however, as Gibbs told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ray Fittipaldo ($) he intends to stay put in Oakland. The news will certainly make the Panthers' rebuilding efforts a lot easier next fall as they'll have a reliable shooter and proven scorer in their rotation to count on in addition to some leadership from the upperclassman.
Hopefully, we'll be able to get you some quotes from Fittipaldo's piece when it runs in the paper tomorrow. For now, it's behind the PG+ pay wall, so we'll have to wait. Either way, though, finally a good night for Panther fans.