Gibbs Returning Overseas After One Year Off
Ashton Gibbs discusses his overseas experiences and why he spent last season away from basketball.
In the months leading up to the 2012 NBA Draft, Ashton Gibbs was at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas running through intense two-a-day workouts alongside fellow draft prospects like Dion Waiters, Mike Scott and Kyle O’Quinn among others. Gibbs looked smooth on the court, hit ridiculously long threes with ease and played well in the group’s pick-up games. He looked like a pro and would leave his imprint on each game with his impressive skill set.
Gibbs’ shot is his biggest strength, as it has always been. He can knock down jumpers from just about anywhere on the court, usually hitting nothing but net. This was on display during his a junior season at the University of Pittsburgh, when he attempted 6.7 three-pointers per game yet still shot a remarkable 49 percent from beyond the arc (while averaging 16.8 points). It had also earned him a gold medal, which he won in 2009 when he represented Team USA during the FIBA U19 World Championship in New Zealand alongside players like Klay Thompson and Gordon Hayward.
Still, despite the impressive numbers and that translatable skill, Gibbs wasn’t selected on the night of the 2012 NBA Draft. Some teams felt his game was too one-dimensional, while others felt he wasn’t a traditional point guard, and too small to play shooting guard at 6’2. Also, the fact that he spent four years in college seemingly hurt him, as executives typically value potential over experience in the draft and seniors are perceived to have limited upside compared to the younger prospects.
After going undrafted, Gibbs weighed his overseas options and ultimately decided to sign abroad. Rather than signing in the NBA Development League – where players make $30,000 or less for a full season – he took his first professional basketball job in Europe. He spent the next three years traveling the world and playing in countries like Greece, Spain, Romania and Lebanon. The international stints went well – he was producing on the court, expanding his game and making good money.
His shot continued to be his money-maker, as it was just as unstoppable overseas as it had been at every other level. During a stint in Greece, he shot 50 percent from three-point range. In Romania, he hit 46.3 percent from long range. In Lebanon, Gibbs was very effective, averaging 16.2 points, 3.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 41.4 percent from beyond the arc.
“I like it a lot,” Gibbs told Basketball Insiders of playing overseas. “It’s a different game depending on what country you’re in, but I actually like it, especially being a shooter you get valued a little more than you would in the NBA. I love the actual culture of it, and I get to say I lived overseas for months at a time so it’s just a great experience overall.
“At first it was a really tough adjustment, but now I am getting used to it. Not everybody on your team speaks English, which is difficult. You have to find your way around different places, even going to your house and coming back – just little stuff – is hard. Oh, and food is a big difference as well. You have to know what to eat and where to go for meals. It’s just little stuff like that, but they actually pair you up with a teammate or coach who speaks English so it’s not that tough once you get the swing of things.”
Gibbs was impressed with the competition level, as he was facing off against notable players he knew from college or individuals he watched growing up as a kid.
“The competition is, honestly, similar to college,” Gibbs said. “You have your big-time teams similar to, like, the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world, and then you have the mid-level and low-level teams. It is very similar to college and you’re playing against a lot of players that you played against in college. Some of the players I’m competing against are older than me and I’ve actually been watching them since middle school, so that’s a lot of fun.”
Because he was playing a big role on his international teams, Gibbs’ game was expanding as well.
“I definitely have grown in running the pick-and-roll, as a point guard and just reading defenses,” Gibbs said. “That’s probably where I’ve grown the most, just reading defenses and taking what they give me – whether it’s an open jump shot or it’s a pick and pop or I’m hitting the big man or hitting the open shooter. I’m better at just reading different things, and they value that a lot more than the U.S.”
He has also grown as a person. Living in four countries before your 25th birthday gives you plenty of life experience and causes you to mature quite a bit.
“I’ve matured, and I think that’s what helped me, honestly, even with my marriage,” Gibbs said. “Just being a lot more mature now than I used to be and really putting things into perspective. I’m making sure my family is right and making sure I take advantage of these opportunities in other countries. I’m not taking this for granted. I try to sight see wherever I’m at and make sure I actually see the country beyond the basketball court. I try to network, with my teammates and coaches and everyone, because you never know, these guys could be lifetime friends.”
After leaving Lebanon, everything in Gibbs’ life seemed to be going great. He was doing things that most people in their early 20s never even dream of, such as traveling the world, experiencing new cultures and signing lucrative contracts to play the game he loves.
To put it simply, life was great for Gibbs. Due to his success on the court, he had his pick of overseas offers. He was planning to sign with a new team for the 2015-16 season – likely going to yet another new country – and pick up right where he left off in his playing career.
That is, until Gibbs received horrible, gut-wrenching news that turned his life upside down.
Just before the start of last season, Gibbs and his wife discovered that their newborn daughter had a serious medical issue. She suddenly became very sick with a severe undisclosed illness, and she was so ill that she had to spend several months in the hospital to receive treatment.
Gibbs – a family man who values his loved ones more than anything else in the world – couldn’t imagine being across the globe while his daughter suffered from this illness and his wife tried to cope with the situation alone. He decided to take this past season off and focus all of his attention on his family.
“The reason I ended up taking last year off was because I now have a wife and a daughter, but my daughter ended up getting sick,” Gibbs said. “She was in the hospital for about two months. So I had to watch her and I had to make sure she was good. Even when she was out of the hospital, I wanted to be there. Family always comes first and I just wanted to make sure she was fine, so I took the year off.”
Fortunately, after that awful scare, his daughter made a complete recovery and is now 100 percent healthy.
And now that his family is doing well and has gotten past that difficult time, Gibbs is ready to return overseas and resume his playing career so he can provide for his wife and daughter.
“Now, I’m back and rejuvenated,” Gibbs said. “I’m feeling good now that my family is healthy and fine. Physically, I’m feeling really good, I’m shooting the ball well and I’m in good condition.”
A number of overseas teams have been in contact with Gibbs and his camp, and he’s currently weighing a number of offers. He will definitely be on a roster for the upcoming season – he just hasn’t decided where he’ll be heading yet.
Once overseas, he’ll keep in contact with his family using Skype and FaceTime, but he’s hoping that his wife and daughter can come live with him soon.
“It is tough not having anybody there; those Skype and FaceTime calls get old after a while,” Gibbs said. “Once I get overseas again, they’ll come for weeks at a time, which is good. My wife is actually just finishing up her last year of massage school, so after my wife finishes school they’ll probably come out and be with me even more.”
For now, while Gibbs waits for his next deal to be finalized, he’s working out in Pittsburgh to prepare for the upcoming season.
“Right now I’m working out twice a day, lifting, running and doing a basketball workout every day,” Gibbs said. “I actually run a training academy as well here in Pittsburgh, so I actually do that from time to time. It’s not every day, but I do stop by time to time just to make sure it’s running right.”
While Gibbs has had plenty of success overseas, he still would love to play in the NBA someday. He now realizes that he can live the life he wants and be successful without ever joining an NBA team, but he would certainly jump at the opportunity if it ever presents itself.
“I mean, if the opportunity came, I would definitely try to take advantage of it,” Gibbs said of possibly playing in the NBA. “But if not, I’m fine, my family is fine and I’m comfortable overseas. If the opportunity came, I would definitely try to take advantage of it because I still think I can play at the highest level. But again, if it doesn’t happen, I’m cool with being overseas, making money over there and doing something I love.”
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