Notre Dame hoops: Irish land commitment from TJ Gibbs

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Having never visited the Notre Dame campus, not even when an older brother was terrorizing the Big East during his dominant days at Pittsburgh, Seton Hall (N.J.) Prep School junior guard TJ Gibbs wanted expectations kept to a minimum during his official visit to campus this weekend.

Gibbs then arrived on campus Friday morning and was promptly blown away by just about everything Notre Dame had to offer – the academics, the athletics, the chance to make a difference for a basketball program coming off its first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship and first Elite Eight since 1979.

When it was time for Gibbs to end his tour Sunday and return home to New Jersey, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard couldn’t leave without offering coach Mike Brey and assistant Anthony Solomon his official commitment.

He just had to be a part of Notre Dame.  And now he is.

“Man, it’s still mind-blowing,” Gibbs told the Tribune late Sunday. “This is my lifelong dream. This is what you work your whole life for – to be able to go to a school like Notre Dame and play your games on ESPN’s Big Monday.

“It’s just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Gibbs, whose given name is Temple, spent the weekend with Irish freshman forward Bonzie Colson. They played pickup games with the rest of the returning Irish, hung out in the dorms and toured a campus that he had never before seen. 

“I fell in love with the place,” he said. “It just felt like home. It blew away all of my expectations.”

Gibbs announced his commitment late Sunday night via Instagram. He included a picture of him wearing a No. 23 Irish jersey. He doesn’t know what number he’ll be when he finally steps on campus for good next June for summer school.

“I just needed a jersey number for the picture,” said Gibbs, who will sign his official letter of intent in November.

Brey is prohibited under NCAA recruiting regulations from commenting on Gibbs until November.

Gibbs, who was the top target on Notre Dame’s recruiting wish list for the Class of 2016, becomes the first member of a recruiting class that, as of now, can go as many as three deep. He chose Notre Dame after making an official visit earlier this spring to Oklahoma. He also visited Georgetown and Providence unofficially.

A four-star prospect from one of New Jersey’s most-respected prep schools, Gibbs is ranked No. 38 by ESPN.com, No. 44 by 247Sports, No. 57 by Scout.com and No. 66 by Rivals.com. He averaged 17 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds as a junior at Seton Hall Prep.

He is the younger brother of former Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs, who was a first team All-Big East selection and honorable mention All-American in 2011, but who also went 1-5 during his collegiate career against Notre Dame. Another older brother, Sterling, played collegiately last season for Seton Hall. He will graduate this spring and plans to play his final year of college as a graduate transfer at Connecticut.

Both of Gibbs’ older brothers also are 6-2.

For the second recruiting cycle in as many years, Brey and his staff were able to zero in on their top recruiting priority and secure a commitment before the start of the summer evaluation process.

Last July, Notre Dame landed its top target – small forward Matt Ryan from Courtland Manor, N.Y., – before the start of the July AAU circuit.

“I’ve only heard great thing around the TriState,” Ryan told the Tribune in a text about Gibbs, whom he has never seen play. “Looking forward to playing with him in a year.”

From the time Brey and Solomon first visited Seton Hall Prep this winter, Gibbs was No. 1 on the Irish recruiting wish list. They let him known in no uncertain terms that he was their gotta-have guy. Now they have him.

“It means a lot that they wanted me,” Gibbs said. “Now I know that my job is to help get other kids to go there and keep that winning tradition that they have. I don’t want to let anybody down.

“I want to be great out there.”

Gibbs will have the chance to compete for playing time – and maybe a whole lot of playing time – as a true freshman. Current Irish sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson is expected to take over the main ball-handling duties as a junior, but beyond next season, his future is unknown. Following a sensational sophomore year, Jackson is projected as a possible NBA first-round draft pick in 2016. He considered, however briefly, entering the draft following his sophomore year. Another decision may have to be made next spring. That means Gibbs could be learning the ropes from the former McDonald’s All-American or, if everything falls into its proper place, preparing for a much larger role as a freshman.

First, though, Gibbs had to find a way late Sunday to get a few hours of rest before classes resumed Monday at Seton Hall Prep. For all that he experienced this weekend – the Notre Dame visit, the commitment, the phone calls that come with it – none of it seemed real.

Gibbs just wanted some time to take a few deep breaths and let it all sink in.

“I just gotta turn my phone off,” he said.

Gibbs had already made the most important call of his day earlier back in Indiana.

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

@tnoieNDI

Mike Brey and Notre Dame received their first commitment for the 2016 recruiting class Sunday in guard TJ Gibbs. (AP Photo/TONY DEJAK)