In the not-so-distant past, nothing could come between Jesse Jones High senior combo guard Daniel Gibson and his white and blue teddy bear blanket. Take our word for it: These two were tight.
At age 6, Gibson, now rated the No. 8 hoop recruit in the nation by SchoolSports.com, wasn't fond of parting with his pal. So much so that he once yanked it from his mother's ironing board, toppling the searing iron onto his right arm and chest in the process.
Luckily, the story has a happy ending. Gibson sustained only minor burns, and the tale has become sort of a family joke. But the incident remains plenty revealing.
For starters, it's awfully clear that what Daniel Gibson wants, he gets. Just as important, though, is that his mother and immediate family are still very much of, well, red-hot importance to his will to achieve.
"My mother (Cheryl) is my backbone," says Gibson, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound playmaker who will turn 18 on Feb. 27 and has signed to play his college ball at the University of Texas next season. "She keeps me motivated. We can be playing in front of 3,000 people and I can't hear anybody screaming but her. Even if we're up by 50, she's still yelling advice."
Cheryl's healthy set of lungs has nurtured Gibson's healthy sense of self-confidence. And that confidence is a trait Falcons seventh-year head coach Jessie Shelton noticed the first time he laid eyes on Gibson, a SchoolSports All-American who averaged 27.1 points and 7.2 assists per game as a junior for a 28-4 squad that reached the Class 4A regional quarterfinals.
"Even when he was in eighth grade,
I knew he had a world of ability and, just as important, you could tell he believes in winning," says Shelton, 46, who had guided Jones to three consecutive District 22-4A titles entering this season. "I remember when he was a freshman, before a big game our young lady trainer asked me who we were playing and if we were going to win. Before I could say anything, this 14-year-old kid says, ‘Yeah, we're gonna win.'"
Gibson isn't just talking, either. He backs up the bravado. As a sophomore and with the Falcons missing two starters due to academic ineligibility, Gibson led the squad to 13 wins in a row down the stretch, scoring 30-plus points in four consecutive district games and finishing the season averaging 26.9 points per game.
Gibson is something of a streak builder, in fact. He averaged 19.6 points a game as a freshman on a team that won 15 in a row after a poor start. Of course, wins in bunches shouldn't be surprising given his shooting ability. Gibson, a first team TABC All-State selection last season, buried 101 3-pointers as a junior and drained 78 from beyond the arc as a sophomore.
Ask Gibson and he'll confirm his production is directly linked to his level of confidence.
"Coming out of ninth grade, I went to the Nike All-America Camp, but I was not playing on the Nike circuit so I didn't know what to expect," he recalls. "Going there gave me the confidence I could play with the best, so I started playing like the best. Playing without enough confidence can hurt you a lot. You can have game, but if your confidence is shaky, you won't do it."
"I just try to go out and play my game," adds Gibson, who is best known for his scoring ability but is equally skilled as a passer. "The attention motivates me, too. Every night, I give 100 percent because there's always somebody watching you. Other teams put a target on your back, but that goes with the territory."
Devastating accuracy from 18 feet and out has helped put Gibson on target to finish his scholastic career with more than 3,000 points if he puts up numbers similar to last season. That's perimeter scoring the Longhorns can't wait to get their hands on. Especially with backcourt starters Brandon Mouton and Royal Ivey set to graduate after this season.
That is not to say, however, that Gibson's maturation process is complete.
"He's got a moody side if things don't go his way," says Shelton. "He might roll his eyes or make an expression that shows his frustration. But he's level-headed, and his court awareness is second to none."
Gibson is the first to acknowledge the pitfalls of scaling to great heights. And he's careful not to get ahead of himself.
"Yeah, sometimes it is hard not to think too far ahead," he admits. "Sometimes you want to look deeper into the future. But you always got to take it one step at a time to get where you're trying to get."
Confidence and skills are invaluable building blocks. But those alone won't carry Gibson where he wants to go. Those alone can't put the adult version of a teddy bear blanket in his hands, which for Gibson is a pro career and financial security.
"I see how the good guys in the league are living and working," says Gibson. "I want to make sure everyone in my family can live good since they've worked so hard for me."
So, what sets Daniel Gibson apart? What separates him from the pack — the traffic jam of great shooters with a blinding first step and the guts to go along?
"I'd say it's my intensity," he replies, without hesitation. "I'm always hyped up. Even when I'm not playing well. I'm always energetic. My brother (25-year-old Byron Jr.) put that in me. He played football (at Madison High). He used to beat me up all the time playing sports in the back yard. And that intensity makes me play hard. Harder than anybody I know."