There was a time a few weeks ago when Pitt junior Ashton Gibbs was determined to leave college a year early to turn professional and enter the NBA draft. But as he received feedback from NBA general managers and scouts the past week, Gibbs decided to put his professional dreams on hold and return to Pitt for his senior season.
Gibbs made the decision Saturday afternoon, one day before the NCAA deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft. Gibbs had put his name in the draft in late March with the idea of getting feedback from the league's talent evaluators.
He had a workout Saturday before scouts for all 30 NBA teams at a combine in New Jersey. Gibbs also had a private workout with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.
"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."
The scouts at the combine put players through individual drills and evaluated players in scrimmages.
The news of Gibbs staying put will keep the Panthers among the Big East and NCAA elite next season. Gibbs, a 6-foot-2 guard, has been a starter the past two seasons and enters his senior season with 1,207 career points. He scored 522 points last season, and with 500 more next season, will rank among the school's top 10 scorers of all time.
Gibbs averaged 16.8 points per game last season while shooting 49 percent from 3-point range, the second-best 3-point percentage in school history. Gibbs was a reserve as a freshman on the team that advanced to the Elite Eight. He became a starter as a sophomore and led the team in scoring, averaging 15.8 points a game. For his efforts, he received the Big East's most improved player award.
This past season, Gibbs was named first-team all-Big East after leading the league in 3-point shooting percentage, 3-point field goals per game and ranking second in free-throw shooting.
Gibbs is one of two returning starters along with forward Nasir Robinson. Coach Jamie Dixon also boasts a strong group of underclassmen and a highly touted recruiting class, headlined by McDonald's All-American Khem Birch.
"I'm very excited about next year," Gibbs said. "I'm happy to be coming back. I'm just looking forward to playing. Something we want to do is try to win a national championship. We have a lot of very good young players. A lot of people don't know about our young guys."
Dixon was traveling Saturday night and unavailable for comment, but he did issue a statement through the athletic department: "I am extremely excited that Ashton will return to the court for us next year. We encouraged and supported Ashton in his pursuit of NBA draft possibilities. Ashton and I had numerous discussions dating back to last year and during the process. Anytime you are an All-Big East First Team player, the professional field is something we encourage our players to look into. Ashton is a tremendous representative for the University of Pittsburgh. He embodies everything you want in a student-athlete and has always made decisions for the right reasons. This is just another example."
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com .