Since Xavier joined the Big East two years ago as a result of college basketball’s latest major realignment, the conference has taken some hits to its reputation due in large part to top schools like Louisville, Syracuse and Connecticut leaving. The situation has allegedly been worsened with back-to-back weak NCAA tournament showings by the conference in its first two years. However, according to at least one of Xavier’s priority recruiting targets, the Big East is still viewed as a top-flight basketball conference.
Temple Gibbs, a 2016 four-star point guard from West Orange, New Jersey, told MusketeerReport on Friday night at the first Nike Elite Youth Basketball League session in Hampton, Virginia that the Big East is still one of college basketball’s best in his opinion, noting that he’d “love to play” in the conference.
”It’s just the same (as it was) to me,” Gibbs said of the Big East. “It’s very competitive. It’s right up there with the ACC’s and the Big Ten’s. I mean, I would love to play in that conference.”
“I think some conferences look for more athletic players and some conferences look for more physical type of players. I just have to really see what I think I can do and where I can contribute the most.”
The junior in high school is well versed in the recent history of the Big East. His oldest brother, Ashton, was a standout on the 2010 Pittsburgh team that Xavier upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He graduated in 2012. His other brother, Sterling, is currently a junior at Seton Hall. He was the Pirates leading scorer last season at 16.3 points per game.
The youngest of the Gibbs brothers said his older siblings have been a big help in the recruiting process.
“(My brothers) just tell me to make sure that I’m picking the right school,” Gibbs said. “Just making sure that I know exactly what I’m getting into and that it’s the right situation for me where I think I can come in and contribute.”
“I’m not really looking to do that right now. Just whenever I feel like the right school is there, I’m definitely going to take it.”
And just like his brothers, multiple Big East schools are pursuing the talented guard, including Xavier, Seton Hall, Providence, Georgetown and St. John’s.
”I saw Providence, Xavier, Georgetown and a lot of the Big East schools live this year,” Gibbs said. “I wasn’t really able to do too much traveling because of our high school season, but those are definitely schools I wanted to go see.”
In addition to those Big East schools, several other high major programs have offered him a scholarship. Notre Dame, Virginia, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Miami, Connecticut, Auburn, Southern California, Rutgers and Boston College are some of the top names in the mix. Also, VCU joined the fray by offering Gibbs on Thursday after adding former Xavier assistant Rasheen Davis, an East Coast recruiting specialist, to its staff.
“Next week I’m going to Oklahoma and within the next couple of weeks I’m hoping to go to Notre Dame,” Gibbs said. “(When I’m on a visit) I just want to see the campus, make sure that it’s a family atmosphere, and I get to really talk to the coaches up close and personal. It’s always fun to see new things and go places I’ve never been before.”
Last summer, Gibbs exploded onto the national recruiting scene when he averaged 14.2 points on 47 percent shooting during EYBL play. He saved some of his best performances for the summer finale in North Augusta at the Nike Peach Jam, and saw his recruitment blow up shortly thereafter.
“I think within that two-week span I got about 15 offers, which was amazing,” he said.
Friday night he carried over that success to the first EYBL session of the new spring recruiting season by playing with confidence. While he didn’t have his shot falling from the outside, he stayed aggressive on the offensive end and showed off a smooth mid-range game as well as his ability to get to the free-throw line. He finished with 14 points (3-9 FG, 1-6 3PT, 7-8 FT), five rebounds, two assists, a steal and one turnover while helping lead his NJ Playaz squad to a 63-52 win over All Ohio Red.
Xavier’s staff will be tracking him closely the rest of this tournament and throughout the EYBL season. Gibbs is currently ranked 58th in the nation in the 2016 class.
The Staff:Xavier assistant Travis Steele was in attendance for the first night of the EYBL event in Hampton on Friday. He watched the Indy Spiece’s C.J. Walker, a 2016 point guard, during the first game of the night, and then watched King James versus Mac Irvin Fire in the second game. King James has priority target Xavier Simpson, as well as Seth Towns, and a few other players who have received XU interest - Willie Jackson and Derrick Daniels.
Walker finished with 23 points on 6-of-11 shooting (1-6 3PT, 8-13 FT) to go with four rebounds, three assists and six turnovers in a 69-46 loss to Team Takeover. Simpson had eight points (3-6 FG, 0-1 3PT, 2-3 FT), four rebounds, three assists and two turnovers.
Chris Mack and Mike Pegues were in New Orleans at the Under Armour event on Friday. The plan was for Mack to fly to Hampton late Friday night, and spend the rest of the weekend at the Nike event.
With Rick Carter taking a job at DePaul, Director of Operations Jeremy Growe got the opportunity to go out on the road this weekend. He is at the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas.