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The UTSA athletics department and men’s basketball program have granted the NCAA communications staff access to student-athletes and coaches to chronicle their experiences of competing in the inaugural First Four. Read Part 1 here.
By Greg Johnson
DAYTON, Ohio – Devin Gibson is far too young to be considered an old man.
But at the age of 21 and being the only senior on the University of Texas at San Antonio basketball team, that’s the kind of good-natured ribbing he endures from his teammates.
UTSA senior Devin Gibson.
His leadership is also a major contributor to the Roadrunners being in position to participate in the inaugural First Four against Alabama State at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday.
The winner advances to the second round to play the No. 1 overall seed Ohio State Friday in Cleveland.
Gibson, a 6-foot point guard from Houston, leads UTSA in scoring (17.0) and assists (5.6). The numbers reveal only part of his impact on the club.
“He is taking on the role of playing with people who had never stepped on a Division I basketball court,” said sophomore guard Melvin Johnson, who has roomed with Gibson on the road the last two years. “If we hadn’t won the last (regular-season) game, we would not have made the Southland Conference tournament for the first time in Devin’s four years. It would have been a huge letdown for the alumni and Devin, as well. We had no choice but to fight.”
Freshman forward Jeromie Hill joked, “Devin isn’t just a pretty face. Off the court, he’s also a leader. He strives to be the best person he can be. He makes sure everyone is ready to go in practice.”
Gibson also sets a good example for the younger players by being a double major in information systems and information assurance and security. He is scheduled to receive his degree in May.
UTSA freshman Jeromie Hill.
He said this isn’t the first time he’s taken the court with raw teammates. In his senior year of high school, he was the only player with much varsity experience.
Being that young, he admits he made some mistakes in the leadership department. It has helped him have a more successful reign as a leader in college.
“I learned you can’t be vocal enough, whether it is on the court or helping someone with off-the-court problems,” Gibson said. “You have to always be an outlet for your teammates no matter how your day is going. That builds chemistry for your team.”
Last Saturday, UTSA upset top-seeded McNeese State, 75-72, to earn the Southland Conference automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. The championship game victory capped an improbable run by the seventh-seeded Roadrunners.
They rallied from 10 points down at the half and beat Texas-Arlington in the regular-season finale just to qualify for their conference tournament. Then they came from 14 down in the second half against Northwestern State in the quarterfinals to win, 97-96. They also defeated third-seeded Sam Houston State, 79-70, in the semifinals.
“Our off-the-court chemistry grew so much that people don’t understand how important it is to put together a streak like that,” Gibson said.
Before their current five-game win streak took place, the Roadrunners lost, 82-80, to rival Texas State on the road. While it was a bitter defeat, Gibson saw the positive side of things.
“I thought we played the best basketball game we’ve played as a team that day,” Gibson said. “It just happened that we came up short. We showed determination, and everything was clicking. We got to the conference tournament, and I remember coach (Brooks Thompson) writing ‘Destiny’ on the board. I really believed it.”
Now, he’s living his dream of playing in the NCAA tournament.
The Roadrunners, 19-13, came close to grabbing the Southland Conference’s automatic bid in his sophomore year. But that tourney run came to an end in a loss to Stephen F. Austin.
He wasn’t sure if he’d get another shot like that one.
In this year’s conference tournament final, he remembers feeling pretty good once his team grabbed a nine-point lead in the second half. But UTSA had to survive a last-second three-point miss to secure the victory.
“When the ball hit the floor, I just thought ‘Oh, my God!’ ” Gibson said. “I was filled with joy.”
Now life is filled with a chartered flight and police escorts from the team hotel to the Dayton Arena.
“This whole experience is great,” Gibson said. “I have stories I can tell my family and my kids some day. Everyone should have a chance to experience this. That’s what makes it so beautiful.”
Gibson wears a smile of wisdom far beyond his years. Maybe his teammates are onto something with this “old man” thing.