Gibson could be an X factor for FSU

The 'Noles are loaded with experience in the front court, led by star-in-the-making Bernard James at power forward. But at center, Xavier Gibson might be the key to a deep tournament run by FSU.

Florida State entered Monday night's matchup with in-state rival UCF ranked 24th in the coaches poll and 25th in the AP.

The ‘Noles defeated the Knights of Central Florida by a score of 73-50. While several players contributed to the win, the night belonged to the big men.

Bernard James posted career highs in both points and rebounds with 18 and 11, respectively. Terrance Shannon added 10 points, and even Jon Kreft displayed some moves and finished with 4 points and 4 boards.

It's no secret that the depth FSU has inside is its strength, but there is one big man that seems to be sliding under the radar: Xavier Gibson.

The 6-11 senior finished the contest with 12 points and 7 rebounds in 20 minutes of action. Gibson is finally feeling at full strength following knee and hand injuries suffered last December.

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton sees improvement in Gibson's game.

"If he can consistently defend and play with the energy he did [Monday], it will give us an opportunity to keep Okaro [White] on the perimeter and it will allow his game to improve," said Hamilton.

The ‘Noles feature four players that stand 6-9 or taller and have the luxury of rotating them without losing much production.

James is clearly the most recognizable of the group. In just his second season with the Seminoles, James has emerged as one of the premier big men in the ACC.

Although the 6-10 forward may be the face of the team, Gibson might be the one who helps propel FSU to the next level. He possesses great agility for his height and allows the Seminoles to use lineups that are more favorable.

"Part of the challenge we have is we need Xavier to be able to guard smaller, quicker, more mobile [power forwards]," said Hamilton. "When Xavier is playing solid ball like he did [Monday], then we can keep our bigger lineup on the floor. We think that length has a tendency to bother people."

That length is one of the best attributes of this year's 'Nole squad. If Gibson can stay on the floor and maintain his health, then he and James could present major problems for opponents.

"I feel like I'm more effective on the offensive end," said Gibson. "I'm not as skilled defensively as Bernard. I feel like us being together as a combo helps our team win or get to where we need to be at. I just wanted to be effective."

Injuries last season prevented the Dothan, Alabama, native from being as effective as he wanted to be. However, Gibson insists he is healthy and ready to help this year's group continue to improve.

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"I feel like I'm in a lot better shape," he said. "Last year wasn't my best shape, and I was kind of out of shape. Going into last season, I feel like I didn't push myself as hard as I should have. Being out kind of made me realize different things I need to work on."

If Gibson's game continues to improve and he is able to stay healthy, then he will add to the depth that FSU has at the four and five positions.

James and Shannon have become household names among Florida State supporters. The forgotten man seems to be the one that has been a part of this roster the longest.

However, it has become clear through only two games that opponents would be wise not to forget about Gibson.

Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.

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