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One-on-one with Ashton Gibbs

Yahoo Sports

Most basketball players would spend a rare Saturday day off socializing with friends, cavorting about campus and enjoying college life.

Not Ashton Gibbs.

On Saturday the Pittsburgh star decided to stay in his apartment.

And off his feet.

“I was exhausted,” Gibbs said. “I mainly just hung out on the couch and watched games. I saw a little of Kentucky-Tennessee and some of the stuff from NBA All-Star weekend. There was plenty to watch.”

Nothing, though, could've been as entertaining as the 98-95 triple overtime victory that Gibbs and his Panthers teammates claimed against West Virginia the night before. The game provided yet another dramatic moment for a Pitt squad that has more than surpassed expectations after losing the crux of last year's team to graduation and the NBA. Gibbs struck for 24 points against the Mountaineers, hitting six 3-pointers.

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Ashton Gibbs' outside shooting provides a lift for Pitt.
(AP Photo)

The Panthers are 19-6 overall and 8-4 in Big East play. Among their victories are road triumphs over Syracuse, Cincinnati and Connecticut.

Gibbs is one of the main reasons for Pittsburgh's success. Along with averaging a team-high 16.8 points, the sophomore from Scotch Plains, N.J., has become the vocal leader of a squad that lost DeJuan Blair, Sam Young and Levance Fields off of a team that earned a No. 1 seed in last year's NCAA tournament.

Gibbs talked with Yahoo! Sports after Sunday's practice.

Q: How did you and your teammates celebrate Friday's victory?

A: It was so late when I got home. I was so tired that I just went to sleep. We didn't celebrate too much. It's all about moving on to the next day and the next game. We're just thinking about our next game against Marquette.

Q: How tired were you, though?

A: I was really tired. I just needed to get some rest. It was a long game. I played 50 minutes. Just the intensity of it made me tired. Emotionally, it was wild. It was definitely exciting. The atmosphere was crazy.

Q: As well as your team had been playing, what can a win like that do for you guys as you enter the home stretch of the regular season?

A: It can definitely build our confidence, knowing we can win a game like that. But at the same we realize we shouldn't have put ourselves in that position. You learn a lot of things – both positive and negative – from a game like that. It was a good game for us to win and now we're just going to move on to the next one. Hopefully we'll keep building.

Q: What'd you do on your off day Saturday?

A: I mainly just relaxed. I tried to not do too much on my feet. I watched Kentucky and I watched some of the other Big East games, too. It's such a tough conference. Syracuse got upset by Louisville [on Sunday] and Georgetown lost to Rutgers. Every game is tough.

Q: What does it say about the league when you see those kinds of upsets?

A: I think it's the best conference in the country. Some of the unranked teams in the Big East are proving it, because anyone can beat anyone on any given day. That's the thing: Everyone has talent, and everyone is familiar with each other, because the Big East teams have so many players from the eastern part of the country. We know each other from high school. You've got to come out with your A-game each and every day.

Q: Most people assumed that Pittsburgh would have a down year because of all the players it lost from last year's team. Why hasn't that been the case?

A: Our confidence. In the beginning of the season, people doubted us and said we couldn't do this and we couldn't do that. Having the confidence to withstand that and to go out each and every day and do our best and play as hard as we can … that's been the biggest key. We can still get better on the offensive and defensive ends. We've got a lot of work to do. We still haven't played our best yet.

Q: What kind of changes did you go through during the offseason in terms of a leadership role? Did you have to tell yourself, 'I've got to step it up and be one of the vocal guys on this team?'

A: Yeah. I definitely did. I was one of the main guys who played last year that was coming back along with Brad [Wanamaker] and Jermaine [Dixon]. Luckily I got a chance to work on my leadership skills playing for USA Basketball over the summer, so once I got back I was able to carry it over into the season.

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Gibbs has benefited from playing overseas with USA Basketball.
(AP Photo)

Q: What was the main thing you gained from playing for USA Basketball?

A: Mainly more court time with great players, both from my team and other teams as well. Just playing with some of the best players in the world was a big deal to me, a big confidence boost. Coach Dixon was our coach, and I was the only guy who really knew his system, so I was able to tell everybody and show everybody where to go and what to do. That really helped me build my leadership skills.

Q: You guys played in New Zealand. Any experiences about the trip stick out to you?

A: It was actually my first time out of the country. I don't regret it at all and I'd definitely do it again. It was a really good experience. I learned so much about a different country. It was actually really nice over there. They love the U.S. and they loved our team. There were a lot of NBA fans that loved NBA players. They showed a lot of support for us and it really helped us.

Q: I've got to think that plane ride was miserable, especially for a bunch of tall basketball players.

A: It took 22 hours to get there. It was hard, because once you got up from a nap, you still had another 15 or so hours left.

Q: Now that you've been around Coach Dixon for nearly two years, what strikes you the most about him? What are the traits that make him such a good coach?

A: His defensive mindset. It really carries over to us and it helps us on the offensive end, because we've seen first hand that if you play defense, your offense will come. His intensity and his energy carries over to us, as well. People always say that players resemble their coach, and that's definitely the case at Pittsburgh. He's an intense, tough kind of guy and that's how we try to play on the court.

Q: Have you kept in touch with any of the stars from last year's team, guys like DeJuan and Sam? What are they saying about your success this season?

A: We keep in touch with them a little bit, but not too much. I watch a lot of DeJuan's games with the San Antonio Spurs. He's doing really well this year. I wish him the best of luck. He works really hard. He deserves everything.

Q: Backtracking a little bit … how did you end up at Pitt? Did something about the school really stand out to you while you were on your visit?

A: I didn't want to be too close to home, but I didn't want to be too far away, either. So Pitt was a good spot. It was in the Big East, the best conference in the country. I really had a good vibe with the coaching staff. They started recruiting me when I was a sophomore in high school and stayed loyal to me the whole time. I really appreciated that. They also had such a good balance of athletics and academics. If you have a degree from Pitt, you're on your way to being successful.

Q: I've read that you have a 3.2 grade point average and that you're majoring in communications. Are you considering getting into broadcasting once your basketball career is over?

A: Yeah, that's definitely a possibility. I've also thought about getting into coaching Communications can help there, too. It's such a broad major.

Q: Any broadcasters that you particularly admire?

A: I watch a lot of NBA games, so seeing Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson makes me realize that commentating isn't something I'd mind doing.

Q: Your brother, Sterling, is a high school junior who is receiving interest from schools all across the country. How good is he going to be?

A: He's going to be good – really good. The good thing is that he works hard and he takes coaching well. If he does that he'll only get better. He's doing really well in high school, but the best is definitely yet to come for him.

Q: Does the fact that Pittsburgh is recruiting him put you in an awkward position?

A: I try not to persuade him where to go. But at the same time I still want to tell him the ins and outs of recruiting. Wherever he decides to go, I'm going to be supportive, because that's my brother, and I love him. I think he'll be fine wherever.

Q: Are your parents able to make it to most of your home games?

A: Not as much, because I have two younger brothers who play basketball. So it's tough for both of them to make it because of my brothers' basketball schedules. It's about a five-hour drive.

Q: Still, I understand that your mom always makes her presence felt by texting you a motivational quote or thought for the day before each game. What can you tell me about that?

A: She sends me a Bible verse before each game. It's something that I always look forward to. I keep it in my mind while I'm playing. It keeps me focused. It's always been a ritual and it keeps me going.

Q: How much time do you spend working on your outside shot?

A: We have an auxiliary gym with a shooting machine that passes the ball back to you once it goes through the net. Other the assistant coaches or the managers will rebound for you. It definitely takes time to improve your game. I try not to let a day go by without me working on my game in some type of way. I usually take at least 500 shots, half of them 3s. I guess hard work pays off sooner or later.

Q: When you're not playing basketball or watching it, what are your hobbies?

A: I'm a computer fanatic – not a computer geek, but a computer fanatic. I like to do things on my computer. I play games and search different news feeds. I like to keep up with current events. I like to write in my journal, as well.