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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Catching Up With... Fred Gibson

When he walked off the field at Georgia for the last time after the 2004 season, Fred Gibson was one of the top receivers in Bulldogs history. After failed attempts to land an NFL roster spot with the Giants, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Miami and Atlanta, however, Gibson has turned his attentions to the basketball court. He's currently a member of the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, where he is averaging nearly six points per game in the NBA Developmental League.

I caught up with Fred this week to find out how his transition to hoops is going and get his thoughts on the current crop of receivers at Georgia.

David Hale: Last most Georgia fans heard of Fred Gibson, he was in NFL camps and hoping to play football. Now you've got your sights set on the NBA. How did this happen?

Fred Gibson: It s crazy. I mean, you know my story about trying to play football. Different teams had given up on me, and it was just really frustrating going from team to team and really not getting the opportunity to play. The last team I was with, I was with the Falcons and I got released for missing that special-teams meeting. I was out in L.A., and I got in touch with Coach Harrick, who coached me at Georgia, and he asked me do I really want to play basketball. I was like, Why not? At the time, I wasn t doing anything, and basketball is one of my best loves. So he called me back in a couple days. He got me into this basketball camp in Suwanee, Ga. They were having this predraft camp where they offered 20 contracts. They rated the top 20 players at camp and they rated me the No. 13 player in the camp. A couple weeks later, they offered me a contract. I got drafted here by the Albuquerque Thunderbirds in the last round of the draft that the D-league has. Now, I m here, man.

DH: Was that a tough transition? Had you been playing basketball regularly or did you have to shake the rust off?

FG: I d been playing football for four years, and I haven t played basketball since I don t know when. But I think just being an athlete, just being blessed with ability and playing basketball and football off and on all through my life, it s kind of easy for me. It s another level, but I think just having played in AAU, I played with Kwame Brown, I played with Josh Powell who plays with the Los Angeles Lakers. I played with a lot of guys that are in the NBA, so I m used to it. I played with Jarvis Hayes. So I m used to top-notch competition, so basically it was kind of easy for me to adapt when I came to the D-league.

DH: So how is your game coming along? Do you feel like you re getting acclimated to life in the D-league?

FG: It s coming along. The D-league, it s the D-league. The opportunities I get, I m going to try to run with it. I was a little rusty, but I m getting back into the swing of things and having fun right now. We ve got a whole lot more games to come, so hopefully something good will come, something will work out.

DH: You ve been in a lot of cities over the past few years. How s life in Albuquerque?

FG: Here in Albuquerque, man, it s no Miami. It s no Atlanta or L.A. Albuquerque is Albuquerque, and it s a great town, but mostly I m so busy with practice and we travel so much that I m just at airports and living in hotels and stuff. It s a little different, but I haven t really had a chance to go out and experience the mountains and all that kind of stuff. Well, I m not really a mountain type of person. But it is what it is. I m here, so I ve got to make the best of it. Hopefully I ll have a chance to go out and experience the Albuquerque life.

DH: You re playing with a few guys who have had a lot of success on the court. How do you get along with your teammates there?

FG: We all get along. They love me. My coach calls me the defensive stopper. I m on the team for a reason, I guess. I earned my way to make this team. I made a statement in training camp that, I played football before here and I haven t played basketball since I don t know when, but I could play basketball. So they accepted me well. I get along with all the guys, like David Noel, who went to North Carolina and Will Conroy, who went to Washington. We all hang out with each other. Steve Allen, who went to Clemson. We all get along, we re all good friends, and the best is yet to come. We re just having fun.

DH: I know you have pretty high aspirations for yourself. What are you hoping to achieve long term playing basketball?

FG: Like I said, this is just my first year playing in the D-league. You never know who s watching, so you ve just got to come with your A game every time you re on the court and hopefully something good will come out of it. The only thing I can do now is to think positive and have fun. When you re having fun is when you play good, so hopefully I ll get a chance to go to the next level or some team will want me overseas. It s all about making a living and having fun doing what you do.

DH: Well, looking back to how you used to make a living, I had a couple football questions for you, too. I m guessing you ve seen a bit of Georgia s two big wide receivers this year, so I was wondering which duo you thought was better: You and Reggie Brown or Mohamed Massaquoi and A.J. Green?

FG: Come on, man. You know it s me and Reggie Brown. Come on, man. Who do you think was better?

DH: Well, I m supposed to be an impartial journalist, you know. But you and Reggie did have a few more years together to pad your resume.

FG: I give it up to those guys. A.J. Green and Massaquoi, they re a great duo. They remind me of me and Reggie when we were there. Those guys make plays. The freshman, I m kind of scared. I ll call Coach Eason every week and tell him they need to stop throwing the ball to that guy because he s going to break all my records there as a freshman. But, man, that guy is great, and Massaquoi came on real strong. They both are real good. They remind me of me and Reggie.

DH: You spent a few years hoping to latch on in the NFL, and you ve certainly seen some of the upside to life in the league and the downside to it, too. Georgia has a couple guys in Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno who have to decide whether they ll leave school early to go pro. Do you have any advice for those guys?

FG: The thing about that situation as far as being in school, it s tough. It depends what the NFL scouts are saying as to where they re going to go in the draft, but I m never going to knock a guy if they re ready and they re going to go in the first round. It s a great opportunity to better their lives, but at the same time, you ve got to make a smart decision. Once they go into that NFL draft, they can t go back to college. Moreno, he did a great job, I m sure he s projected to go in the first round. He just needs to sit down with Coach Richt and the people who care about him and are going to give him the right advice to make that decision. Basically, it s up to them. At the end of the day, they re going to have to live with their decision, whatever that decision is. One thing about it, you can always go on to the NFL, but once you go into the draft, you lose your eligibility to come back and play football again at Georgia.

DH: How closely have you followed Georgia s season? Have you been disappointed with how it unfolded?

FG: I follow every game. At Georgia, a 9-3 season is a bad season for us. They have very high expectations at Georgia and in the SEC. That s big-time football. If you go 9-3, that s a bad season. But I think they did pretty good. I guess it s OK.

DH: So now that you re playing hoops, is there anyone, when you look back at the guys you played football with at Georgia, that you think could follow in your footsteps and find success on the hardwood?

FG: I m really like the only person that came right from football and played basketball, but you never know. Anybody can do it. As long as you ve got a basketball background, and you re a good athlete, anybody can do it. You ve just got to put your mind to it and just go for it.

DH: Well, who might have been the best basketball player that you played with had they chosen not to pursue football?

FG: I would have to say Quentin Moses, who plays with the Miami Dolphins, could make the transition from football to the D-league. He s a big guy. Back then, he was one of the top basketball players in the country, and also he played at Georgia for a year with Coach Harrick. So he would be one of the guys that could make that transition.

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