Creighton guard Grant Gibbs is banking on getting some good news Friday.
Gibbs has missed the past six games since suffering a dislocated right kneecap in a Jan. 7 game against DePaul. Gibbs was cleared last week to resume some light activity, and he is expecting to get the green light to begin full workouts when he visits the doctor on Friday.
“I’m hoping he clears me to begin some light practicing,” Gibbs said. “Maybe it will be light contact for a couple of days. It’s a little bit delicate, because I do need time to get my wind back and up to speed for a game.
“At the same time, I know I can’t be up on it too much and aggravate something. But that’s kind of the anatomy of recovering from any injury.”
Gibbs should know, as he’s endured his share over the years. He battled a shoulder injury and knee tendinitis in his first two seasons at Gonzaga. The tendinitis required surgery shortly after he transferred to Creighton, and he played the past two seasons slowed by the condition.
Earlier this season, he sustained a shoulder injury that required him to sit out several practices before Creighton’s Dec. 8 game against Nebraska. He played 33 minutes in that game, scoring eight points and handing out eight assists.
Gibbs suffered his latest injury late in the first half of the game against DePaul, when he got tangled up with an opposing player and fell hard on the knee. It was feared at first that the injury might be career-ending.
It wasn’t, and the sixth-year senior from Marion, Iowa, has tried his best to follow the orders of Creighton’s doctors and trainers in his recovery. It hasn’t been easy, as Gibbs knows the clock is ticking on his collegiate career.
Gibbs is planning on making his return in Creighton’s Feb. 7 home game against DePaul. That would be 4½ weeks since he suffered the injury — he was told the recovery would take four to six weeks.
“Getting the doctor’s and the trainer’s approval has been most of the battle,” said Gibbs, who admits he’s been champing at the bit to speed up the process. “I kind of feel like I’ve played with enough injuries and stuff that no matter what it is, I can adjust and play through it.
“With this one, though, it’s a little different.”
In the last couple of days, Gibbs has been able to do some light running as well as lateral-movement and ball-handling drills in individual work supervised by Creighton’s training staff. He is wearing a light brace to protect the knee.
Without Gibbs, Creighton has won five of the six games to finish the first half of Big East play with an 8-1 record and a hold on first place. Junior Avery Dingman took Gibbs’ spot in the starting lineup, and junior Devin Brooks and redshirt freshman Isaiah Zierden have seen increased playing time in backup roles.
Gibbs’ return would again alter the rotation, but coach Greg McDermott hardly sees that as a problem.
“We’ll figure that out, and the positive is that the guys that replaced Grant are all better players now because of it,” McDermott said. “They are in a much better place to contribute in key situations because of the experience they’ve gotten.”
Star forward Doug McDermott has helped pick up some of the slack in Gibbs’ absence. Prior to Gibbs’ injury, McDermott had 23 assists in Creighton’s first 14½ games. In the past 6½, McDermott has 13 assists.
“His assist numbers since we lost Grant is a sign of Doug’s maturity as a player,” Greg McDermott said. “We lost the guy that did the best job of getting other guys shots. With Grant gone, part of Doug becomes that guy.
“He’s looking to get other guys shots or dumping it to someone diving to the basket.”
Gibbs led Creighton in assists each of the past two seasons, and was again leading the team prior to his injury. His 62 assists still rank third behind Austin Chatman (89) and Jahenns Manigat (69).
Like his coach, Gibbs isn’t fretting about how he’ll re-integrate himself into the rotation when he’s ready to play.
“I’m just going to try to facilitate, and I’ve never had any trouble blending into our offense,” Gibbs said. He paused, laughed and added, “And if I’m playing really badly, sit me back down.
“If we had gotten blown out these last six games, maybe the mindset would be a little different. But I think I’ve always been pretty good at coming in and finding my role in the offense. I don’t see any problem in getting back to that.”