Gibson enjoyed chopping down Gators

"I guess that just hurt them right in the heart when they saw me do that Gator chop,'' freshman Fred Gibson said with a smile Monday.

ATHENS, Ga. ---- There was a time Fred Gibson thought he would be playing football and basketball for the University of Florida.

Gibson even gave a public commitment to Florida around this time last year.

Now Gibson just shakes his head as he thinks about what could have happened.

With Steve Spurrier's exit as Florida's football coach, "I would be mad right now,'' Gibson says.

Also, Gibson wouldn't have had the opportunity to give the Florida basketball fans a quick Gator chop — while standing at the free-throw line for Georgia Saturday and playing a key role in the Bulldogs' 84-79 upset of the second-ranked Gators.

"I guess that just hurt them right in the heart when they saw me do that Gator chop,'' Gibson said with a smile Monday.

Thanks to Georgia's second road upset win over a top 10 team in as many weeks, the Bulldogs moved up to No. 15 in Monday's Associated Press poll. Now 15-3 overall and 4-1 in the Southeastern Conference, Georgia is tied with Florida for first place in the East and will play host to Arkansas Wednesday night at 7:30.

In his biggest contribution since joining the basketball team in early January, Gibson scored 13 points in only 16 minutes and hit four key free throws down the stretch. Gibson also scored on a breakaway jam that stretched the lead to eight points at 75-67.

"Every time Fred plays, he is a spark to this team,'' said forward Jarvis Hayes. "You can't look past what Fred brings to this team.''

Coach Jim Harrick had low expectations but welcomed Gibson after the 6-foot-4 freshman from Ware County finished a standout season on the football team.

In football, Gibson surpassed Terrence Edwards as the team's go-to receiver, finishing with five 100-yard games despite making only three starts.

In basketball, Gibson is more of a complement than a leader, but that support role is crucial at a time Georgia's depth has been hurt. Starting forward Steve Thomas and backup point guard Tony Cole already have missed two games as they serve an indefinite suspension during an on-campus rape investigation.

"I'll do what I have to do,'' Gibson said. "If it means stepping up to the challenge, I'll do it. I'm just here to help the team out and have fun and be away from football for a while.''

Gibson calls basketball his first love, but there wasn't much love being exchanged from the always vocal Florida fans before and during Saturday's game. Aware that Gibson does not like the nickname Freddie, that was the name the students chanted at Gibson, and some insults hurled at the freshman were more insulting.

"They were saying a whole lot of things before the game and during the game and you kind of take that personally,'' Gibson said. "It was fun going down there and facing all the Gator people. I knew they were going to be mad at me.''

Gibson couldn't resist clapping his arms together in the Gator Chop as his answer to the fans. That prompted Florida center Udonis Haslem to say Gibson "doesn't know any better'' and will learn to respect Florida "when it's all over.''

Haslem hit Gibson with a hard foul late in the game, sending Gibson into the Georgia bench.

Said Gibson Monday: "They talk about respect. They didn't give me any respect when I first walked into that gym. They were talking all kinds of things about me.''

Now Georgia players and coaches are saying all kinds of good things about Gibson.

"I had never had a football player come in and help me (before Gibson),'' said Coach Jim Harrick. "I had no idea if the guy could come in and help us. He just has some things you can't coach. He is very athletic. He is quick. His first step is incredible.

"He played a lot of high school ball. He can shoot the ball. He is so quick he can get you a steal, he can deflect the ball.''

Still learning the Georgia system, Gibson is better in transition and the free flow of the game than in the half-court offense or defense.

Said Hayes, who found Gibson with a long pass that set up the freshman's dunk on the Gators: "Fred is lighting quick. I didn't know he was that fast. When he gets the system down, he's going to be a big help.''

NOTE: Harrick stressed Monday that, despite published reports in Atlanta, he has taken no further action than to suspend Cole and Thomas. The Atlanta Constitution reported that Harrick has decided Cole will not return to the team, no matter the result of the ongoing investigation by the University of Georgia Police Department into Cole's alleged involvement in a reported rape at McWhorter Hall on Jan. 14.

"(Cole) is no different from Thomas right now or (football player) Brandon Williams,'' Harrick said Monday.

Williams has been suspended by football coach Mark Richt.

A female student told police that a basketball player raped her while a football player attempted to rape her. A second basketball player has been accused of being at the scene.

University of Georgia associate vice-president for public safety Asa Boynton said Friday he hopes to forward findings from the police investigation to Clarke County District Attorney Ken Mauldin early this week.


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