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Shinshu’s Gibson brings valuable March Madness experience to playoff contender

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Japan Times features periodic interviews with players in the bj-league. Xavier Gibson of the Shinshu Brave Warriors is the subject of this week’s profile.

Position: Forward/center
Age: 25
Ht: 210 cm
Wt: 120 kg
Hometown: Dothan, Alabama
College: Florida State

Noteworthy: Gibson scored a season-high 27 points on Sunday against the Iwate Big Bulls, draining 4 of 5 3-pointers as Shinshu, the Eastern Conference’s fourth-place team, improved to 26-14 and completed a series sweep. In 40 games, he is averaging 16.7 points, 10.2 rebounds (10th-best output) and 2.4 blocks (second behind Tokyo’s Anthony Stover and Shimane’s Jeral Davis, who are tied at 2.8) per game. …

He become one of three Florida State Seminoles players to appear in four NCAA tournaments during his collegiate career. In a January 2012 article in the Dothan Eagle, his hometown newspaper, ex-NBA big man J.R. Reid’s comments from an ACC Digital Network feature (“Sleeping Giant: FSU’s Xavier Gibson”) were included. “He is a great defender — not a great offensive scorer, but he can finish in the paint,” Reid was quoted as saying. Then a college senior, Gibson had developed into an assertive presence for the Seminoles, noted assistant coach Corey Williams. “He’s been a little more vocal than in the past. The confidence comes from being in our program four years,” Williams told the Dothan newspaper. “He’s taken ownership of this basketball team.”

As a rookie, Gibson played for Greek and Turkish pro teams last season.

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With this being March Madness time, I am interested in your most fond, special memories of March basketball with Florida State. What are the things you remember most from your time competing for the Seminoles at this time of year? And how much pride do you have in the fact that after your FSU career had completed you were one of three Seminoles in history to play in four NCAA tournaments?

One of my most fond memories being a part of the Seminoles would be my junior year, 2010-2011 season, when we went to the Sweet 16.

I take great pride in myself on coming into a predominately football school and turning it into a basketball powerhouse with my fellow ’08 class; coming straight out of high school and accomplishing many milestones with Florida State and all our success in winning the (2012 ACC tournament) championship as well as competing in the four NCAA tournaments.

Indeed, the Brave Warriors are in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. So what do you consider the team’s biggest strengths? And what are key things to improve that would give the team a better chance to succeed in the postseason?

Our biggest strength would be as a team we are fearless and it gets us by more than anything. Our key things would be improving our rebounding and defense for this postseason, so we continue to stop the opposing team and our chances will be better on winning.

Are you pleased with your overall productivity — averaging 16.7 points per game, 10.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks plus 60 slam dunks, for example — through last weekend?

I am proud of myself, but I know there is another level I can get to. And I know it will all come together as I continue with the season.

Which opponents have been the most challenging for you to play against at both ends of the floor this season? And what has made them so tough?

Akita (33-9 overall) would definitely be one of the most challenging opponents because of their point guard (All-Star Game MVP Yuki Togashi). He is really good at making his teammates better and dominating the game. He’s a great leader.

As a quality shot blocker, do you pay close attention to this aspect of the game when you watch film or NBA, pro and college games? And do you have a few all-time favorite shot blockers?

I don’t really consider myself a shot blocker. I just do whatever it takes to win. I only study film from an offensive aspect. I consider defense as all effort.

In your own words, how would you describe yourself as a basketball player? For example, if you are broadcasting a game and had to provide descriptions of Xavier Gibson, what would you say?

I would say I am an athletic 4 man with a big heart, that can put the ball on floor, that can shoot the 3 with a good scorer’s mentality, who brings it on both ends.

What do you like most about the bj-league?

The one thing I like about the bj-league is giving me the opportunity to showcase my skills.

What do you dislike about the bj-league?

What I dislike is the officiating can be a little questionable, and I felt I should have been an All-Star due to my body of work.

The state of Alabama has developed some great basketball players who have gone on to be stars or legends in college and the NBA, such as Hall of Famer Charles Barkley (Leeds High School and Auburn University) and seven-time NBA title winner Robert Horry (University of Alabama). Who are some of the top current pro players you competed against during your days at Northview High in Dothan, and then at FSU?

In high school I got the chance to play against DeMarcus Cousins (Kings) and many other great NBA players at the LeBron James Skills Academy. As for FSU, I played alongside many NBA players such as Toney Douglas (Heat), Chris Singleton (Wizards) and Bernard James (Mavericks). I also played against many NBA (players), such as Mason Plumlee (Nets) and Miles Plumlee (Suns) and a few others like Mike Scott (Hawks) and John Henson (Bucks).

How important has past title-winning experience been for the Brave Warriors this season, with Jeff Parmer coming to your team to reunite with his former coach, Ryuji Kawai, who was also the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix assistant when the team won the 2010-11 championship?

I think the league is a lot different now and as a team we have to grow to understand it. Being reunited is great for them. Coach is someone that he is familiar with, that knows his personality and that can carry out his every order.

Away from basketball, what have you enjoyed doing during your time in Japan?

I was able to enjoy and make some good memories with my girlfriend in Tokyo during my time off. I was glad to share that experience with her.

Editor’s note: Archived stories in this long-running interview series can be found here: www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/column/one-on-one-with/