Just 10 days after losing in the second round of the Division II basketball state tournament, Sahuaro senior Arthur Gibson was back on the court, with a fresh start and a different ball.
One of Southern Arizona’s top volleyball players a year ago, the 6-foot-5-inch Gibson is on the short list of preseason favorites to be named the Star’s Player of the Year.
Gibson and the Cougars are hoping winning this weekend’s TUSD Invitational at Cholla will springboard them to future success.
“Their goal and my goal every year is to win the state championship,” Sahuaro coach Sandy Novak said.
Down to his last shot at a state title, Gibson is hoping it can happen. If the Cougars were to reach the championship match, it would be their first trip to the finals since 2009, when they won it all.
“Last year never got past where we started to become what we could be,” Gibson said. “There was so much potential that we had. This year I think we have that same talent.”
Switching positions for the third time in three years and now working as an outside hitter, Gibson is the only remaining Cougar from the 2012 team that took first at the TUSD Invitational, which helped propel them to a 24-5 season.
“He’s so talented that we can play him at just about any position,” Novak said.
He’s not just a volleyball player: A starting forward, Gibson led Sahuaro’s basketball team in scoring, rebounds and blocks.
Averaging nearly a double-double for the second straight season, the Cougar captain is hoping to have similar success on the volleyball court, crediting the physical demands of basketball for getting him ready.
The hardest part of the transition according to Gibson? Lightening up as a leader.
“It’s a lot more positive reinforcement,” Gibson said. “Because the points go by so quickly, if you stay on one point, that was five points ago. You have to have a short memory and move on to the next play.”
While Sahuaro is in no short supply of chemistry off the court, on the court it will have its work cut out for it. After missing the first few practices because of basketball and a few more being sick, Gibson got off to a slow start on opening night against Marana on Tuesday.
“I’m just trying to control what I can,” Gibson said. “If the pass isn’t what I want or isn’t my pass, I can still hustle to make the second and third touches better.”
The Cougars cruised to a win in straight sets but Gibson finished with what will likely be a season-low seven kills. He still tied for the lead on the team.
The best way to get better at something is repetition, something Gibson and the Cougars will have plenty of this weekend.
“We need to do well in the tournament,” said Gibson. “We don’t need to play perfectly but we need to fix our mistakes. It will be a challenge in growth for us.”