Based on video replay of the incident and subsequent Twitter reactions, the extant of Grant Gibbs’ injury could have been much worse. During the first half of a Tuesday night win against DePaul, the twisting of the sixth year guard’s right knee looked awful, no doubt, and even coach Greg McDermott, when prodded by reporters Wednesday morning, thought Gibbs had suffered “…a sprain or a partial tear of some sort.” A few hours after Creighton’s coach met with reporters, though, it was revealed that Gibbs had dislocated his knee cap, and could miss up to six weeks (or, at the minimum, a month). To McDermott, this was a relief – “As good of news as we could have hoped” – and Gibbs was reportedly already attempting to speed up his recovery process.
Doug McDermott, arguably the nation’s most skilled offensive player, was also injured during Tuesday’s victory, but he will likely play Sunday when Creighton next takes the court (against Xavier). This is the Bluejays first year in the Big East, and while the team is still adjusting to the physicality — per coach McDermott, “I think all three [of Creighton’s conference] games have been pretty physical” — if the younger McDermott was out for up to a month and a half, it’s likely college basketball writers would have already written the team’s obituary. This isn’t a suggestion that Gibbs is easily replaceable, just more a commentary that CU’s backcourt was built to withstand this type of injury, and has the requisite components to continue competing for the Big East title.
McDermott didn’t always know he would have Gibbs for a sixth season; the team found out he would return to Omaha in early July, and the coaching staff had recruited Devin Brooks to campus, in part, to strengthen their backcourt depth (an argument could also be made of bridging a pipeline to the NYC-area, as Brooks played his high school ball at St. Raymond’s). Gibbs has been an integral part of the team in 2013-14, but his loss isn’t as devastating as it would have been a year ago. Austin Chatman was still growing into the role as starting point guard then, so Gibbs was essential to maintain the efficient flow of CU’s offense — his assist rate led the team and he was using more than three-quarters of the team’s minutes. And the wing didn’t just direct the team’s offense; he posted Creighton’s third-best offensive rating, and provided an additional long-range threat (nearly 40% from three).
Gibbs satisfies a different role this year. Still arguably the team’s best passer, he is now used more for his court vision, awareness, and knowledge of how Creighton’s offense should function rather than for his scoring or possession usage. He is using fewer minutes, has a lower usage rate, and attempts a fewer percentage of CU shots. He has also ceded much of the team’s distribution responsibilities to Chatman, Brooks, and Jahenns Manigat, the backcourt trio which not only ensures Creighton’s assist rate is ranked among DI’s top five but also possesses enough offensive skill to create gaps within opposing defenses and prevent sagging on McDermott on either the post or with cuts. As to how Creighton replaces Gibbs, his coach was frank: “Had Grant not gotten the sixth year of eligibility, Avery [Dingman] would be seeing a lot of these minutes, [and] Devin has played good off the bench … so we have guys that can be used there.”
McDermott and Creighton will miss Gibbs — most of the 62 assists he has recorded this season result in a McDermott bucket, and a high percentage of CU’s halfcourt sets are orchestrated from a Gibbs pass (a Bluejay favorite starts with Gibbs stationed at the wing and then passing the ball to a screened McDermott, spotting up at the top of the arc for a unguarded three) — but since he already had to plan for a future sans Gibbs, coach McDermott has numerous options to ensure the Creighton offense continues to steamroll Big East opponents.