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Men's Basketball: Sterling Gibbs May Not Be the Point Guard UConn Needs; Is Jalen Adams?

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Can the freshman fill the role? And what happens to Gibbs and Rodney Purvis?

Sterling Gibbs is UConn's starting point guard. Should he be?
Sterling Gibbs is UConn's starting point guard. Should he be?
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Sterling Gibbs was Seton Hall's point guard in 2013-14, his first eligible year with the Pirates.

This was a new role for Gibbs in college. As a freshman at Texas two seasons before, he was the shooting guard, alongside Myck Kabongo. That was not going to happen with the Pirates, not with Fuquan Edwin around.

Gibbs did well as the point guard that year. He was used on 25.8 percent of possessions and ranked 91st in the country with a 29.3 percent assist rate.

The following year, he moved back to shooting guard. This made sense. Gibbs is a talented scorer, Edwin was gone and Seton Hall had landed Isaiah Whitehead, a five-star point guard in the class of 2015. The move suited Gibbs, who finished fourth in the Big East in scoring (16.3 points per game) and fifth in assists (3.8).

Back at point guard with UConn, his numbers are down, and it is becoming clearer by the game Gibbs is not a point guard.

He was seen as the solution to a significant problem when he decided to transfer to UConn after graduating from Seton Hall. Last year, UConn tried to play Ryan Boatright at point guard. That did not work. Boatright was better in a scoring role, playing off the ball while Shabazz Napier called the shots.

Eight games into the 2015-16 season, it looks like trying to play Gibbs as a point guard is a mistake. UConn's offense is stagnant at the start of games. Getting down by 20 to Gonzaga and Maryland is a horrible game plan when trying to get what would surely be the two biggest wins on the non-conference schedule.

There is little creativity, hardly any ball sharing and a clear lack of a true point guard. UConn ranks 170th in the country with a 52.1 assist percentage. Something needs to change. Gibbs playing point guard limits the effectiveness of UConn's offense.

It will not happen against Ohio State—not at the start, at least—but it may be time to start considering Jalen Adams as UConn's point guard.

There have been growing pains, but Adams is showing steady improvement, and he has proven to be a solid contributor when called upon. As UConn mounted its comeback Tuesday against Maryland at Madison Square Garden, Adams was on the floor the whole time. Adams re-entered the game with 13 minutes to play and stayed in until the final buzzer, playing a career-high 26 minutes in total. He ran point on the comeback bid. UConn was down as many as 16 points in the final 13 minutes. He helped cut the lead to three.

Adams has only played 47.8 percent of minutes available, compared to Gibbs' 74.1, but he is more effective, being used in 20.8 percent of possessions. Gibbs is being used at on 18.8 percent of possessions.

Gibbs is at his best when he can get into scoring positions and get to the bucket. Playing on the ball, he has often forced himself into position where ill-advised 3-pointers result. It has been a problem. Not only has he only made 35.6 percent of his 3-point attempts, but he is so much better inside, shooting at a rate of 57.7 percent on 2-point attempts. He has shot nearly twice as many 3-pointers. That limits the chances for him to get to his high-percentage scoring areas, and also to get to the line, where he has missed once on 18 attempts this year.

Adams can open up Gibbs for better opportunities, but what would it mean for Rodney Purvis? Either Gibbs or Purvis would likely sit at the start of games. Purvis has gotten off to sluggish starts, finishing fairly strong, but not doing enough over the course of a game.

Should he or Gibbs sit? Of course, there will always be the option to go small, which has been a good look for UConn. It was impossible against Maryland, with so much length propelling the Terrapins. But against some of the Huskies' upcoming opponents, it could be an option. Otherwise, having Gibbs or Purvis off the bench gives the Huskies better depth. UConn's bench was supposed to be deep regardless, but getting outscored 24-6 against Maryland is a rather uninspiring sight.

This will not be an overnight change. When Ohio State shows up at Gampel Pavilion, it will more likely than not be Gibbs starting on the ball. But Adams arrived at UConn as the heir apparent. With UConn's offense struggling, it may soon be time to let him prove what he can do.