For six months, Xavier Gibson sat on the sidelines watching his teammates play, and more importantly win, basketball games.
All the 6-foot-9, 205-pound forward could do was sit back and wait until his wrist injury fully healed. For the first time in a long time, the Dothan (Ala.) Northview is no longer watching. He's playing and trying to get back to where he was a year ago on the hardwood.
"It feels good to be back but it feels like I'm a step behind everybody," Gibson said after his first session of games at the NBA Players Association camp. "I'm trying to push through. It was real frustrating because there were times I knew that my team needed me in certain areas like rebounding and blocking shots. I wanted to help but I just couldn't do it."
Being away from the game helped his take a more cerebral approach to his position, Gibson said, and expand his overall skill package.
"I had a chance to see where I can rebound better. I was watching where I could be at in terms of being at certain spots on the floor," Gibson said. "I was watching more and learning more. I feel like I'm playing at a lot smarter than I was before. I can't really shoot it like I used to. If I can do more with my left hand, I'll do it."
Gibson is taking a page out of Greg Oden's book as he perfects his off hand, even on the free throw line and around the basket. While his recruitment hasn't quite reached Oden's level when he was a prep star, the high-majors are certainly involved.
Gibson said Florida State, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina compile his top four while Georgia Tech, Kansas State and Cincinnati are also involved.
"They were still sending letters and coaches at the schools that I'm seriously looking at still stayed around and kept on me," Gibson said of his top four's approach while he was out with an injury. "They kept encouraging me and pushing me to keep my head up."
A decision timeline has been set up, Gibson says, by the end of August to the beginning of September.
"I want to figure out where I'm going to be and commit before the summer gets over with," Gibson said. "I don't want to wait too late. I haven't had a chance to visit North Carolina yet. I want to do that before I decide on anything.
"I want to play for a team that works well together with the coach. Playing time is important. I want to play early. I want to be out there as much as I can."
After being away for so long, you can't blame him.