NJIT Senior Shyquan Gibbs Relies on Relentless Work Ethic to Help Him On and Off the Court

Born and bred in Hillside, New Jersey, it did not take too long for Shyquan Gibbs to find a passion for the game of basketball.  Helped by the fact Gibbs brother, sister, father grandfather and cousins were athletes and father coached high school basketball at Henry Snyder High School and played on the St. Peter’s University basketball team, where he finished fourth on all the all-time scoring career list and member of the Athletic Hall of Fame, Gibbs started playing hoops at the ripe age of three years old.

Attending Academy I Middle School in Jersey City, New Jersey, Gibbs played on the school’s basketball team that won the city tournament during his 8th grade year and finished 7th in the country at the nationals.  Gibbs also got the opportunity to play on the AAU F.A.C.E.S. team coached by Robert Cole and Shelton Gibbs from the age of 7 to 14, traveling all around the country and going up against prospects in Donovan Mitchell, Eric Paschall, Tyus Battle, Ty Jerome, Kobe Simmons, De-Aron Fox and Carson Edwards.

Moving on to St. Anthony’s High School where Gibbs played under Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Coach Bob Hurley Sr., Gibbs was part of the Friars squad that went 28-2 in his junior year and won a sixth consecutive Non-Public B Championship.  However, the pinnacle of success for the school would occur in Gibbs senior year with the team going undefeated at 26-0, winning a state championship and tournament of champions, named the number 1 team in New Jersey and fourth in the nation by USA Today.  Gibbs personal achievement would come in the form of being one of the Top 25 players in New Jersey by NJHoops.com.

“I love Coach Hurley and his family and very thankful for what they have done for me,” said Shyquan Gibbs.  “Everybody sees the yelling, being very demanding but he loves each and every one of his players and absolutely mean it when I say that man loves every last one of his players and wholeheartedly mean it.  Something people misunderstand him because they see the yelling or how hard he is but that was completely and strictly out of love.”

“For me personally my brother went to St. Anthony’s as well, won a state championship, went undefeated and tournament of champions.  It’s something to live up to, a  bar has been really set high and at 15,16 and 17 you want to reach those expectations.  It could be a lot but that’s the point of life and you got to grow and mature in order to reach that goal and that’s what we did in adolescence.”

“My junior year winning Non-Public B championship didn’t count, we wanted the state championships and after a while, Coach Hurley was dusting them off and things that mattered were the gold plaques.  My senior year, we had had been together for years, most of the guys playing with since I was six years old.  We looked at each other faces before the season and said we had to get this done by all means necessary.  We did not want to be the last class to leave that school without winning, so we put our hats on each other more than ever and ended up going undefeated.”

“We won a state championship, tournament of champions and ranked nationally.  It was great because I accomplished it, my long-time friends that I had grown up since I was a kid.  Being able to go with from 7 to 17 with them ( RJ Cole, Juvaris Hayes, Idris Joyner, Jaleel Lord, Asante Gist, Kaleb Bishop) and winning at that capacity and level.”

Continuing to play AAU basketball while attending St. Anthony’s under head coachm, Frank Burno, Gibbs got the chance to play RJ Cole, Jagan Mosely, Brandon Anderson, Ray Montilus, Sa’eed Nelson and Leon Daniels.  Off the court Gibbs flourished as well, named the St. Anthony High School Valedictorian, News 12 New Jersey Co-Scholar Athlete of the Week and receiving the Investors Bank Academic Excellence Award.

“My parents told me one day the ball is going to stop bouncing and you have to have something to rely on and always done well in school and blessed to do well in basketball,” Shyquan Gibbs said.

After graduating from St. Anthony’s Gibbs visited several colleges and universities in St. Peter’s, Central Connecticut, Holy Cross and Dartmouth.  When it came down to making a decision, Gibbs decided to remain close to home and attend NJIT.

“NJIT was kind of the perfect thing, I knew a lot of people there and I went to school with Tim Coleman and Mohamed Bendary,” said Shyquan Gibbs.  “I knew the coaching staff for most of my life, Coach (Brian) Kennedy, Kim Waiters and 12 minutes away from my house.  Coach Kennedy gave me a chance, took a shot on a 6-foot, 130- pound kid when I was a senior in high school.”

In his freshman year Gibbs averaged 3.3 points per game, 21 minutes per game and started 13 games.  “My freshman year I got to go down to Mexico at the start of the season,” Shyquan Gibbs said.  “The first home I played at the Fleisher Center against Division III St. Lawrence I was able to get significant minutes, trying to get everyone a few shots, had a few assists and didn’t particularly shoot the ball well.”

On scoring his first college career points and road game, “I was on the free throw line, said to myself ‘I better make these’, the score was 35-13 with 10 minutes left in the first half and said ‘I have to get my feet wet’.  The first road game was at Utah State and Damon Lynn had 30 points and carrying us in that game offensively.  Thankful I played a lot in that game, had a few buckets, good plays and my first really high-level game seeing the intensity of college game for the first time.”

In 2017 the Highlanders moved into the Wellness and Events Center and Gibbs was so impressed the first time he stepped foot inside the facility.  “When we first walked into the WEC, I said this is the absolutely so beautiful and big.  I have not been through the whole facility and it’s always clean.  A top tier arena, you have a room in the locker room, flat screen TV’s and comfortable couches.  You have practice courts, the game arena is beautiful, lighting, top class weight room and hot/cold tub with an underwater treadmill.”

Increasing production in his sophomore year, Gibbs averaged 5.8 points per game, shooting 50 percent from three-point range, 81 percent from the free-throw line and totaling 31 steals.  “Freshman to sophomore year was a confidence thing and figuring out the college game,” Shyquan Gibbs remarked.  “My freshman year I would be confused and lost out there.  It started to click towards the end of my freshman year, I started playing well, scoring in double figures and started every game.  I got more comfortable with the game and system.”

“I had an unbelievable shooting year my sophomore year, shot 50 percent, 48 percent from the field and 80 something from the free throw line.  It was a kind of maturation and more confidence in myself throughout that period of time.  Once any basketball player gets that confidence, that’s when they are at their best and kind of what happened to me during that time.”

The confidence kept rising for Gibbs in his junior year, averaging 8.6 points per game including a career high 25 points against Cornell, playing in 35 games and tallying 1,073 minutes on the court.  NJIT won a program record 22 games, won their first ASUN Tournament game against Florida Gulf Coast University and secured a spot in the CollegeInsider.com.  Postseason Tournament where they defeated Quinnipiac 92-81.

“We started clicking together, chemistry was building and last year we had guys that had played for 2 or 3 years already,” Shyquan Gibbs said.  “We knew where everybody was going to be at and having talented bigs in Abdul (Lewis), Mohamed (Bendary), Diandre (Wilson) and Donovan (Greer) as well as me and Zach (Cooks).  We were more experienced, and kind of put it all together.  We had been to every ASUN Tournament game but could never get a win and finally got that weight off our back.  To finally beat Florida Gulf Coast was a great feeling because we had never won at their arena.”

“Coach Kennedy always told us to have to hate more to lose than win.  Scoring 25 points against Cornell boosted my confidence and Zach scoring wise.  Trying to will us to win, at the time we were undefeated and we fell short in that game but made us better losing in that fashion.  We went on to have a great year and didn’t define our season.”

The final season turned out to be a very challenging season for Gibbs who was the only senior on the team as NJIT struggled with injuries and finished up with a 9-21 record.  However, the Highlanders battled number one seed Liberty on their own home court for 40 minutes in the ASUN Tournament Quarterfinals for before dropping a 55-49 decision thus ending Gibbs career in a Highlanders uniform.  Gibbs finished the season averaging 8.2 points per game, playing 30 games and logging 978 minutes.  In addition, Gibbs ended his career starting 108 career games that is highest active in the ASUN, 13th in the NCAA and set an NJIT record playing in 125 games.

“It was different than any other year, only 8 or 9 guys at practice because of injuries and really couldn’t practice the way we wanted to,” Shyquan Gibbs said.  “We made it work, I can’t complain looking back and no regrets about everything and happy I was able to do it.  I have played over 3,000 minutes in my college career and I can’t complain about it.”

“We were down but always in the game, kept it close and Liberty is a really good team.  Coach (Ritchie) McKay is a really good coach, they have senior laden team, high IQ and play really well together.  That being said, a real testament to us and we had a good chance to win the game as well.  Sadly, the last 3 or 4 games of my career I did not play with my left hand because I sprained my thumb (UCL Sprain).”

“It really didn’t hit me right away, took a few days” “We’re in the locker room, hugging everybody and maybe in a couple of months I will say ‘wow, I’m not on the court with these guys and in the locker room, I’m going to be in the stands watching the games and that’s a huge difference.’  I have never watched a men’s basketball game from the stands in the WEC because I have played there every year since it opened.”

“The ASUN has always had talent every year.  What I like most about is the schools down South, it’s warmer down there especially in Florida and they have Waffle Houses.  I didn’t go away to college or another state so to go to Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia and is pretty cool.  We played at Houston after the awful tragedy (Hurricane Harvey) in their new facility and played locally at the Prudential Center and RAC.”

“I have been blessed not to come across any major injuries that would sideline me and extremely blessed for that.  You have to have the right people around you, training staff (Robert Fisk, Matthew Koscs, Paul Grayner, Catie Rose, Arianna De Lucia) and weight room.  Basketball is 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical and having your mind say you are to go through these little knacks and pains and do what I can to help the team win.  I gave it my all, tried to do the best in every game I played in and that’s the mentality.  You don’t worry about a tweaked ankle, sprained wrist, aching back or shoulder.  That all goes out the window once you are playing in the moment.  You have other guys depending on you to do your job.”

What mattered most to Gibbs during his senior season was passing down his experience and knowledge to the underclassmen as well as acknowledging the accomplishments of teammates that he had been playing with for a couple of years.

“I wanted to relay as much information to them I possibly because I have been in their shoes.   When I was freshman, I was not playing a lot, towards the middle of freshman year I was on the bench, games that I didn’t play and wouldn’t play 2 or 3 games in a row and didn’t know if I was starting.  I had ups and downs freshman year so I can tell them I have been through it.  I would talk to them and tell them you have to believe in the work you are putting in and believe in yourself.  As long as you keep working hard it will come back to you full circle and not to worry and get down on yourself.”

“Reilly (Walsh) has been there longer than any of us, steady, calm and collective guy.  Very heads up in every aspect of life and I call him “The Goat” and say that every time I introduce him to someone.  He is always looking out for me on and off the court and love him and his family.  Souleymane (Diakite) has grown a lot from freshman to sophomore year and got some experience under his feet.  Da’Mir (Faison) and Jason (Murphy) redshirted this year.  Da’Mir hurt his knee  and know he is going to do great things in his four year.  Jason had an injury that sidelined him at the beginning of the year.  Big J is physical and going to wreak havoc.”

“Levar (Williams) and Bree (Byron Breeland III) have an unbelievable work ethic and always in the gym during the day and late nights and can never question how hard they work.  Big X (Xavier Mayo) is a work horse, guys want to play with, may not wow you offensively but does everything in order to help the team win and rebounds like a 7-footer, has a lot of heart and plays with a lot of passion.  San Antonio (Brinson) comes to my house for Thanksgiving, stays with my family and my family loves him and I love his family.  It’s crazy because not too long ago, San Antonio was visiting the school and I was his host and now I’m gone and he is a senior and crazy how time flies.  Diego (Willis) and Q (Kjell DeGraff) came on board together, I felt bad Q going out with the knee injury this year and a big part of our team and hope he recovers completely.”

“Zach Cooks aka ZC, I talk to Zach every day, sometimes I would be going through some things with basketball and Zach would hit me up and check if I was okay and vice versa.  We would talk about basketball and life.  I have played with a lot of good guards but Zach for his size, plays with a lot of heart, passion and watches a ton of film.  He puts the time for everything he works for, never acts like anything has been given to him and likes to work for and never acts like anything has been given to him and be the first one to tell you.”

“He never had any hand outs and worked for everything to be the player he is today.  Zach can do it on all three levels, get to the basket against 6’8, 6’9 guys, pull up for a three and finish, stop on a dime and shoot a mid-range pull up and get to the foul line.  Averaged the most field goals in the ASUN this year, hard-working dude and is always business so no one can take anything from him and testament to his family, people he grew up with and love playing with Zach.  You don’t want him on the opposite team but your team and glad I got to play with him for three years.”

“When things would be happening on the court, we could talk to each other and know what we were able to do and switch who we were guarding and even for back door cuts just talking to each other.  Even if we made a mistake during the action both of us were ready to be quick and recover from it.  We had to talk a lot more this season because the team was very young and inexperienced.”

On the flipside Gibbs thrived in the classroom, named to the ASUN All-Academic Team for a third consecutive year, CoSIDA Academic All-District Team in his junior year and ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) Winter/Spring Academic Honor Roll in his sophomore year.  Majoring in Finance, Gibbs has already earned his bachelor’s degree and on the verge of completing his Master’s Degree.

“Growing up I was told there was no basketball without books,” said Shyquan Gibbs.  “My parents’ instilled that in me at a very young age and kind of stuck with me throughout my life.  In high school I graduated as a valedictorian and coming into college I had that same mindset.  To get out of NJIT with a Master’s Degree and close to completing that so I’m going to keep that promise to them.  My parents have done everything in their power to make sure I was successful.  I can only thank God to have two incredible parents, two siblings, two additional siblings, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and three nephews.  Just having that support system, on the basketball court and giving it my all and in the classroom having that same type of mentality.”

“I finished my bachelor’s and just want to complete my Master’s.  It’s for me personally, a large part is for my parents and want to do that for them.  They are my motivational factor behind that.  My family sacrificed a lot for me, time and financially.  To be able to give back to them and I have been lucky enough to do it in four years and put in as much time to basketball.”

“It’s all about time management and priorities.  Manage your time and what’s important to you.  I was never much of a party guy, doing homework when I was watching basketball film, getting in the gym and I believe anybody can do this if they put their mind to it and have the right guidance.  Knowing the process and not doing things without knowing what you are doing.”

Just as important and meaningful to Gibbs is the support from the NJIT administration led by athletic director Lenny Kaplan.  “Mr. Kaplan does not get much praise and thanks as he probably should,” said Shyquan Gibbs.  “He has to make all the decisions and not an easy thing to do.  One thing I can tell you is he always going to look out for every student-athlete he possibly can in order to ensure every student-athlete has a great experience in their years at NJIT.”

“Mr. Bill McDermott, a big sports fan but will help you get internships and help you write your resume.   Big pieces of the NJIT community that want you to succeed as well as off the court.   It’s always a bigger picture and a lot of people at NJIT can help you paint that bigger picture so it’s a beautiful thing and not always about sports.”

One of the most memorable moments for Gibbs was on Senior Day against Florida Gulf Coast on February 22nd.  “It was the first time my family sat courtside at a game,” Shyquan Gibbs said.  “A big moment for me and reflecting back on a lot of people in my corner.  Coach Hurley and his family were in the stands and how deep it runs.  Not everybody has the opportunity to get to play Division I basketball at a high level for four years.”

“Everything I have been able to accomplish as a college basketball player I have to give to Coach Kennedy, because not too many people wanted to and nothing but thankfulness and praise for him.   I developed relationship with Kim Waiters, Joe Gutowski, Jeff Rafferty and Danny Manuel.  Aside from the basketball side of life it’s actual life and I know if I’m having hard time, I can pick up the phone and call or text one of them.  It’s a blessing because not too many people have that option or relationships with their coaches and testament to the people they are and not everything is about basketball and talk about your future.”

“I’m fortunate to have such a support system and with your family behind you and made every home game they possibly could and sacrificed a lot of their time throughout my four years of college and my basketball career.  It was very fitting because I wanted to give back to them because they have always done for me.”

“On the flipside, I gave it my all and everything I had to NJIT, coaching staff and teammates.  I’m forever thankful for the opportunities and blessings that came with going to NJIT and people I have met and came across and hope I can repay them whatever I can.”