There are sometimes when a player’s contribution to a team goes beyond a stat-line.
David Gibbs is one of those players.
The sophomore guard averaged 2.6 points and 2.4 assists per game, while averaging nearly 20 minutes a game as a starter before breaking his left foot Feb. 2 in practice. While it might seem like the Massachusetts men’s basketball team could manage without a player who doesn’t put up big numbers, it’s Gibbs’ defense that has been missed by the Minutemen.
“He’s probably one of the best defenders we have on our team,” freshman Freddie Riley said.
Gibbs was in the top five on the team with 13 steals, and typically defended the opposing team’s best player.
Since Gibbs is out for the remainder of the season, those defensive responsibilities have gone to guard Javorn Farrell, who now has five starts with the Minutemen.
His new role has been far from easy. Farrell had to defend top scorer Jordan Crawford on Xavier and an experienced Keith Cothran on Rhode Island.
On Feb. 3 against the Musketeers, Crawford was quiet for most of the night until hitting back-to-back 3-pointers in the final four minutes to give the Musketeers a commanding lead over UMass.
Gibbs’ absence has shown more than just on the defensive end.
“Our turnovers have gone up a little bit,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “We were a little thin at the point guard spot as it was, never mind the fact that he was starting for us.”
Kellogg has mixed up his lineups quite a bit, with guard Ricky Harris occasionally starting at point guard, something he experimented with during the beginning of the season when the Minutemen played Michigan State on Nov. 28.
Allowing Harris to play point guard gave Riley and Farrell more opportunities. However, Kellogg said before practice that when there are multiple freshmen on the floor, it can be difficult to be as successful as he wants.
“At times, we’ve had three or four freshmen on the floor at the same time, which at times is not so beneficial to us,” Kellogg said.
Riley (9.7 ppg) started both games in Gibbs’ absence and is averaging 8.5 ppg since moving into his new role.
“I feel like I’ve done an okay job, but I feel like I can do better,” Riley said. “I’m just learning right now.”
Junior Gary Correia is starting to see increased minutes, as well, after considering the idea of transferring last season due to a lack of playing time. He considered leaving for Boston University until Kellogg dismissed Connecticut transfer Doug Wiggins from the team and approached Correia about staying with the Minutemen.
Before Gibbs got injured, Correia saw his role increase, and now has to perform in that position with a thin pool of guards available. Correia said before practice that he appreciates having a chance to step up more, but not at the expense of losing a player for the rest of the season.
“I’m not happy in the manner in which [getting more minutes] came in, where we’re losing someone who’s a valuable part of our team,” Correia said. “But playing is something everyone wants to do, but hopefully, by me playing more and everyone raising their game, can result in some wins.”
This season, Correia has become more of a coach on the floor, and helps bring experience to a young Minutemen squad. While the losses have been frustrating at times, the junior doesn’t have any regrets about staying in Amherst because of the team’s potential.
UMass has been in several close games against competitive teams, including the win over Memphis and the close loss to the Musketeers. Now, Correia believes it’s just a matter of the younger players realizing that potential and growing up.
“I feel like going down the stretch, we’ll be able to string some wins together,” Correia said.
Adam Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.