The Dagger - NCAAB

Just two weeks ago, Ashton Gibbs appeared to be brutally close to signing with an agent and bringing a firm end to his collegiate career.

And just over 24 hours before the 11:59 p.m. Sunday deadline for underclassmen testing the NBA draft waters to pull their names out, Gibbs officially changed courses.

The Pitt junior guard, who led the Panthers in scoring this year and established himself as one of the nation's most dangerous 3-point shooters, withdrew his name from that pool and will be back as a senior.

"The NBA can wait a year," Gibbs said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to continuing the success that we've established here at Pitt and finish my collegiate career with all of my teammates and fellow senior Nasir Robinson. It will also be extra special to earn my degree."

No one was really projecting Gibbs as a first round pick, and the decision to come back seems like a no-brainer. His outside shot will give him at least the same shot next year at a spot in the big show as he has now. He shot 49 percent from deep and averaged 3.3 3-point makes per game while averaging 16.8 points an outing. The extra year at Pitt gives the 6-foot-2 Gibbs a chance to round himself out some, making him a more attractive option in the eyes of NBA scouts a year from now.

In other words, there was no apparent reason good enough for Gibbs to skip out on what could be a strong senior season both personally and for the Pitt program.

He'll be the unquestioned leader of a team filled with young talents on the verge of individual leaps. That will be supplemented by a strong recruiting class headlined by McDonald's All-American forward Khem Birch.

The Panthers will again have plenty of preseason steam, especially as defending regular season champs of a loaded Big East. How successful next season is, though, may ultimately be determined on whether Pitt can get Jamie Dixon a Final Four berth after again falling short in excruciating fashion.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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