Taj Gibson Finally Gets Due

Taj Gibson is a New Yorker who opted to head 3,000 miles away to go to a start-up prep school on the west coast. It's all worked out well for the long, 6-foot-9 rising senior, who has no shortage of suitors.

Taj Gibson is used to being in the background. While his buddies back at home got the ink in the New York newspapers, he was in California as part of a start-up Stoneridge Prep program. Then he remained in the shadows last summer, playing with guys like Marcus Johnson, Bryan Harvey and Taylor King on the Southern Cal All-Stars.

Gibson still isn't the primary focus on a Southern Cal squad that features King, Chase Budinger, James Keefe and Brandon Jennings, but he's finally starting to make a name for himself with his athleticism and shot-blocking ability.

The 6-foot-9, 205-pound Gibson still needs to get stronger and develop a more consistent mid-range jumper, but he's a defensive force – altering and blocking shots and also capable of defending in the post or on the perimeter.

``I've been patient and known that the attention would come eventually," Gibson said. "I've always been the second or third guy, in the background. That's why I enjoy playing the game so much. Of course I care about not getting the attention, but there's nothing I can do about it except to wait."

The 18-year-old Gibson is a Brooklyn, N.Y., native who got his first taste of major exposure last summer a the ABCD Camp.

He followed it up with a strong junior campaign at Stoneridge, averaging 19 points, 17 boards and 9 blocks per contest.

``He's really stepped up his mid-range game and is able to put the ball on the floor now," Stoneridge coach Ron Slater said. "He can guard anyone from 6-5 to 7-2 and that's hard to do. He does that so well. I think he's one of the top two or three shot-blockers in the country."

``He's one of the best big guys I've seen," added Southern Cal All-Stars boss Pat Barrett. "He dominates on defense, has done a good job scoring, rebounds and never says a word. He just wants to win. He reminds me of Tyson Chandler – he can dominate a game without having to score. That's what Tyson used to do with us."

Gibson rattled off a school list that includes Louisville, UConn, Pittsburgh, St. John's, Arizona, USC and Cincinnati. The Panthers are the current leader. As for returning back to the northeast, it's not really all that big of a deal.

``I don't care," Gibson said. "As long as it's a situation that fits me. I want a coach that I can trust. Someone who's honest and can have my back and be a teacher."

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