Rick Barnes made a mistake. When a certain 6’1″, 180-pound guard from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, arrived on his Texas campus in 2011, so too did a plethora of other highly-rated recruits, all vying for valuable playing time. Sterling Gibbs joined four other ESPN100 recruits in Austin, two of whom – Myck Kabongo and Julien Lewis – were in direct competition with Gibbs for playing time at the point guard position. While those two logged 30 and 25 minutes per game, respectively, and returning leading scorer J’Covan Brown started in the Longhorns’ backcourt, Gibbs was relegated as the odd man out on the bench. The New Jersey all-stater was used sparingly by Barnes that year, playing just 7.5 minutes and averaging 2.6 points per game. A lack of playing time should come as no surprise with the backcourt depth at Texas that season, but with his classmates playing well and the program bringing in yet another point guard (Javan Felix) in the following year’s recruiting class, the writing was on the wall for Gibbs.
His natural destination was home, as he said at the time: “If my decision had to do with basketball only, I would not be leaving Texas. But my decision is family-related and involves more than basketball.” After a transfer year, Gibbs’ first season at Seton Hall allowed him to play 30 minutes per game, gave him a starting role, and revealed an opportunity for leadership upon the impending graduation of Fuquan Edwin. The redshirt sophomore flourished, scoring 13.2 points per game while dishing out 4.2 assists per game and boasting an impressive 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. While inconsistent in his scoring, Gibbs showed he was not afraid to shoot the ball, finishing the season second on the team in field goal attempts, first in free throw attempts, and demonstrating an uncanny desire to take clutch shots in the moment. Against Villanova in the 2014 Big East Tournament, it was Gibbs who took and made the game-winner off a step-back jumper, despite shooting just 3-of-9 from the field up to that point. “In the end, it was supposed to get in my hands,” Gibbs said of his clutch buzzer-beater. “I was supposed to create a shot for my teammates or create a shot for myself, and I just stepped back and hit the jumper.”