Road jeers don’t get to Gibson
STORY SUMMARY »
LAS CRUCES, N.M. » Matt Gibson smiled as he tried to recall some of the more colorful taunts he's heard through his travels with the Hawaii basketball team.
Hawaii vs. Boise State, 8 a.m., Thursday at Las Cruces, N.M.; live KFVE, Ch. 5; KKEA 1420-AM.
"I've been called a Backstreet Boy, they talk about my tattoos," the Hawaii point guard said as the Rainbows wrapped up their practice at Onate High School yesterday. Teammate Adhar Mayen reminded him of the time a fan called him "Vanilla Ice."
The fiery style that endeared Gibson to the Stan Sheriff Center crowd also makes him a favorite target on the road. He was booed whenever he touched the ball during UH's loss to New Mexico State last Saturday at the Pan American Center.
As far as Gibson's concerned, it's just part of the game.
"It's all fun. I think I would be pretty offended if the other crowd didn't say anything," he said.
The 6-foot-5 senior is nearing the end of his four-year career at UH, although the Rainbows would like to delay the end of the season as long as possible.
Hawaii continued its preparations for Thursday's Western Athletic Conference tournament game against Boise State yesterday. The quarterfinal game, set for 8 a.m. Hawaii time, will be televised locally on KFVE.
Profile: Matt Gibson
The UH point guard has put his name in Hawaii's record book:
» Points: 1,109 (10th in UH history)
» Assists: 309 (ninth)
» 3-point goals: 127 (seventh)
» Free throws made: 244 (seventh)
» FT percentage: .800 (sixth)
» Steals: 140 (sixth)
FULL STORY »
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Matt Gibson has scored in double figures for 22 straight games. The senior leads the Rainbows into the first round of the WAC tournament on Thursday against Boise State.
After four years and more than 1,000 points, Matt Gibson has left his mark on the Hawaii basketball program.
Likewise, his tenure in Manoa has made a lasting impression on the Rainbow Warriors point guard -- physically and otherwise.
"I used to be cute," he quipped while sporting a fresh cut across the bridge of his nose after a game earlier this season.
The on-court abandon Gibson displayed over his career made him a fan favorite at the Stan Sheriff Center, though it sometimes left him with some postgame aches and scrapes.
Through it all, he's been able to endure those and other growing pains as he approaches the end of his athletic and academic careers at UH.
"I was 19 when I got here and I'm 23 now. Those are some defining years, crucial years you go through," Gibson said. "A lot of people out here have impacted my life in a positive way and that'll always be appreciated."
Gibson is part of a UH senior class looking to extend its final season a while longer as the Rainbows prepare for this week's Western Athletic Conference tournament. Fifth-seeded Hawaii opens tournament play Thursday against Boise State at the Pan American Center.
Gibson's statistical contributions include 1,109 points, 309 assists and 140 steals, all putting him in the top 10 on the program's all-time lists.
He leads the Rainbows this season with 17 points, five assists and 1.9 steals per game, earning him spots on the All-WAC second team and all-defensive team.
"Matt has always been a great competitor," UH coach Bob Nash said. "I think this year he learned how to play the point guard position a lot better and he loves competing. That's why I think you see his numbers where they are."
Lately, Gibson has been playing through a knee injury that kept him out of five games this season and will require surgery when the team returns home. But he's been able to maintain a streak of 22 consecutive games in double-figure scoring.
"Playing with pain is just part of the game," he said after the team's practice at Onate High School yesterday.
Gibson arrived in Hawaii as a sophomore in 2004, but his first thoughts of playing in the islands formed a few years earlier while at Putnam City High School in Oklahoma.
The family sent a tape to the UH offices, but didn't hear back right away. The coaching staff eventually offered him a scholarship after his freshman year at Three Rivers Community College in Missouri.
"He said that's paradise, I want to go to paradise," said Lon Gibson, Matt's father. "We want to thank all the people who've been here for Matt and Matt has loved Hawaii. ... I think it's really helped him as a player and a man to be here."
Wired as a shooting guard when he joined the Rainbows, Gibson was given the reins at the point last season in Riley Wallace's final run as coach. He developed a feel for the balance between scoring and distributing.
"I credit Coach Wallace a lot for how my game is now because I have both elements in my game where I can drive and create and see the floor well enough to find other people," Gibson said.
His path hasn't been without its rocky patches. Gibson missed a year with a medical hardship, had a couple of run-ins with Wallace early in his career and missed two starts this season due to disciplinary issues.
"He's had his moments when he's had problems and we worked through those problems as a family," Nash said.
Through the on and off-court pains, Gibson remains appreciative of the time spent in Hawaii.
"I've been through a lot of adversity and I've had things not go as planned and I've gotten in trouble and had to take consequences," said Gibson, who is working toward earning his history degree this semester. "But it's never been my MO to leave somewhere or quit because it was too hard or because I didn't like the way it was going. I've always felt God puts me in the places he wants me to be in and it's up to me to figure out how to make it work."