Creighton guard Grant Gibbs is making plays and avoiding mistakes at a dizzying pace.
In the Bluejays' last three games, the senior from Marion, Iowa, has handed out 27 assists. His only turnover came when he lost his footing after grabbing a rebound against Nebraska and was called for traveling.
While Gibbs isn't particularly impressed with his 27-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, his coach is.
“Those are ridiculous numbers given what we've asked of him,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “He's put in a decision-making role a lot. When you make the right decision as often as he does, that's pretty incredible.”
Not to Gibbs. He downplayed his recent run of success when asked about it after Sunday's win over Akron. Asked Tuesday if that was just the humble Iowa boy in him talking, Gibbs shook his head.
“I don't think it's a real big deal,” Gibbs said. “I've been lucky a couple of times when passes got tipped that probably would have been turnovers.
“I'm not a guy that has the ball in his hands a ton and I'm forced to create. I'm just making simple plays and reading what the defense is giving me. In that regard, I don't think it's anything too spectacular.”
Actually, Gibbs probably is handling the ball more now than he did a season ago, when he averaged a team-high 5.0 assists per game and led the Missouri Valley with 176 assists.
The 6-foot-5 Gibbs did so primarily by getting his assists from the wing, with senior Antoine Young handling the point-guard duties.
Austin Chatman backed up Young and now is the Bluejays' starter. Freshman Andre Yates backs up Chatman, but there have been times in Creighton's first 10 games in which McDermott has preferred to go with a more experienced hand at the point.
That's Gibbs, who played the position in high school and basically brings a point guard's mentality to wherever he plays on the court.
“Grant has that ability to make the game slow down around him,” McDermott said. “That's why he is able to make some of the plays that he makes. Very seldom does he get rushed.”
In Creighton's first 10 games, Gibbs has recorded 66 assists while committing just nine turnovers. Third nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, Gibbs likely won't maintain his 7.3-to-1 ratio over the grind of a long season.
Since the NCAA started tracking assist-to-turnover ratio five seasons ago, no player has finished the season with a 4-to-1 ratio. Tyler Newbold of Utah State came close, finishing the 2008-09 season with a 3.96-to-1 ratio.
North Carolina's Kendall Marshall led the nation last season at 3.48-to-1.
While McDermott considers Gibbs' present pace amazing, he's not totally surprised by the player's production. The coach fell in love with Gibbs' playmaking ability when he was trying to recruit Gibbs while coaching at Iowa State.
Gibbs broke McDermott's heart by heading off to Gonzaga, but they hooked up again when Gibbs decided to transfer to Creighton shortly after McDermott took over the program in the spring of 2010.
“I always thought he had unbelievable vision and I loved his leadership qualities,” McDermott said. “Those are the parts of his game I've always been impressed by. You can take part of a guy's athletic ability with an injury, but it's hard to impact those two areas.
“He obviously isn't as quick or as fast as he used to be, but he still gets it.”
Gibbs has been bothered by chronic tendinitis in his knee throughout his collegiate career. The problem hasn't caused him to miss any games the past two seasons at Creighton, but it has required him to miss some practice time.
The aching knee has caused Gibbs to alter some of the things he does on the court, but he can still throw down an occasional dunk or maneuver through the lane to launch a soft and highly accurate floater.
Scoring points, though, is always secondary for Gibbs. His main objective is to try to get the ball inside to Doug McDermott or Gregory Echenique or find an open shooter on the perimeter.
Gibbs credits McDermott for a lot of his success.
“I really try to get the ball into our posts in a position where they can score,” Gibbs said. “Doug is so good with his angles and his footwork that we've developed a pretty good chemistry.”
Echenique, the Bluejays' 6-9 center, has become more of a target for Gibbs' deliveries.
“Gregory has worked really hard on his footwork and his technique,” Gibbs said. “My trust in him is a little better than it was last year. Going back and watching film of last year, I missed Gregory a lot of times when he was open.
“Maybe the trust wasn't there, but as well as he's playing right now, I have to get him the ball as much as I can. And he's really making himself available. I think we've really grown in that regard.”
Gibbs also has developed a strong working relationship with Chatman, whose playmaking skills can be as spectacular as Gibbs' are steady. In his first 10 starts, Chatman ranks fourth on the team in scoring (8.5 points per game) while compiling a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“I think Austin and I have developed a good trust in each other,” Gibbs said. “It's kind of like it was with Antoine and me. His strengths are my weakness, and vice versa.
“Austin has been very willing to give up the ball to let other people make plays. He allows me to kind of roam out on the wing and use my length. I think I'm at my best when I'm playing with a guy like him, and I think that's true for him as well.”
Greg McDermott likes the 1-2 playmaking punch that Chatman and Gibbs provide the Bluejays.
“They take pressure off each other,” the coach said. “They essentially give us two point guards on the floor, and we can initiate our offense in a lot of different ways.
“Having two guys like that in decision-making positions makes it very comfortable for our offense.”
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