By Andrew Koob
New Castle News
Jessica Shevitz remembers the first time she realized the kind of player she had in Caroline Gibson.
In a junior high girls basketball game last year, the Laurel High girls basketball coach recalls a sequence where Gibson stole the ball, took it upcourt herself, crossed over two defenders, euro-stepped into the lane and finished with a layup.
“I knew right there that she was going to be something special,” Shevitz said.
What Shevitz didn’t realize, however, was just how much of an impact Gibson would have so early-on for the Lady Spartans.
Gibson, who helped the Laurel junior high girls team to two championships, currently is a freshman at the varsity level. She has been thrust into an expanded role with injuries piling up for Laurel upperclassmen.
She has responded beyond expectations in the absence of Aleyce Bell, Nicole Wade and Kristin Dicks, who returned to action Monday night, as Gibson has turned into one of the best overall options for the Lady Spartans. As of Monday, Gibson leads the team in points (12 ppg), assists, steals and field goal percentage.
Last week, Gibson scored 14 points in a loss to Riverside and 15 points in a victory over New Brighton.
“It was tough having them gone,” Gibson said of the injured players. “But that just pushed me even more. I’m just trying to be at my best.”
Gibson has been that and much more for the Lady Spartans. Shevitz knew that Gibson had both the ability and drive to succeed, even as she was forced into a starring role for Laurel.
“She has a great work ethic, coupled with natural basketball talent,” Shevitz said. “She just flows on the floor. I’ve coached her through junior high and she’s waited and has been ready for this moment. Maybe sooner than some other girls would be as a freshman, but I had no doubt she could step in there and be able to do what she’s doing.
“She’s a tough kid from a bigger family,” she added. “She is a 4-Her, these kids have work ethics like you wouldn’t believe. That goes a long way, it carries onto the court when they have the work ethic at home and they grow up carrying that responsibility, it translates to responsibility and leadership on the court.”
That mentality has Gibson continuing to improve her game as her ninth-grade campaign continues. It also has her thinking about a future playing on the collegiate level.
“I always want to push myself to be the best that I can be, “Gibson said. “I just love the game, so I hope I can keep it going, hopefully into college.”
While the past and present has been a success for Gibson, Shevitz is excited for what the future holds for the freshman. And, if the past and present are any indication, the future looks exceptionally bright for Gibson and the Lady Spartans.
“She was throwing moves down in junior high that you’re seeing in a guys varsity game,” Shevitz said. “It gets frustrating sometimes because she’ll get called for a travel because (officials) say ‘a girl can’t do that.’ Well she can, she plays like that.”