Gibson returns in a healthy state Terp glad to move beyond injured knee, Weller rift

November 04, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Seven months ago, Kelley Gibson's future at the University of Maryland was clouded.

A serious knee injury, the second in three years, had ended her redshirt sophomore year prematurely. A serious chasm with coach Chris Weller, and Gibson's father going public with several details of their falling out, had raised doubts about Gibson finishing her college career as a Terrapin.

"I felt like I wanted to give up," Gibson said recently.

The torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee has been repaired, and the relationship with her coach has been patched up as well. Gibson has come a long way toward regaining confidence in what had been her only healthy leg and in a coach who once compared her game to that of the Chicago Bulls' Scottie Pippen.

With two years of eligibility remaining, Gibson knows that the promise of a pro career looms larger now than it did back at Easton High School. The success of the two women's basketball leagues has made Gibson push harder since her surgery last June.

"I think we're all going to play a lot harder because of the opportunities we have now," said Gibson, whose athleticism and all-around game, particularly her shooting, will make her attractive to the pros. "I think it's going to pick it up on all levels."

Gibson might have to pick up her own game for the Terrapins to be successful this season. After blowing out her right knee in the third game of her freshman year, Gibson has shown flashes of being a dominant player.

During the 1995-96 season, she averaged 12.2 points and scored a career-high 28 against Clemson, 27 against Florida State and 23 against Virginia. Last season she fell off to 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds before getting hurt against Florida State on Jan. 30.

Asked to describe her career, Gibson said, "It's been up and down. My career hasn't been what I planned it would be because of the injuries. Right now I'm just trying to work hard and have fun."

Said Weller: "I've been delighted with the progress she's made. The doctor did a terrific job on her knee and Kelley has worked very hard to get back. She's a tremendous athlete. She has always shown exceptional fortitude."

Gibson was put in a difficult situation last season after getting hurt. The injury occurred without any contact after Weller put her back in a game in which the Terrapins had built a comfortable lead. Her father blamed the coach for Gibson's injury.

After that, several anonymous players came forward to tell of Weller's alleged mistreatment of Gibson and others. Greg Richie, Gibson's father, told The Sun at the time that Weller used an expletive in referring to his daughter in front of the team.

"When my father spoke out, it kind of put the spotlight on me," said Gibson. "People kept asking, 'What are you going to do?' It did put some pressure on me. I can't knock him for voicing his opinion."

Did she question Weller putting her back in a game that had already been decided?

"At the time she did it, I didn't question it since she's the coach," said Gibson. "But when I got hurt, that question comes into your mind. But the biggest thing I thought was, 'There must be something wrong with my knees.' "

With the controversy swirling around her, Gibson's biggest concern was getting her knee fixed. She wound up seeing an Indianapolis orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Donald Shelbourne, and was back running within three to four months. Gibson said that the knee is "85 to 90" percent back to normal.

"There are still some things I feel iffy about," said Gibson.

Gibson is hopeful that her relationship with Weller has turned the page, and that both see a happier chapter being written in the coming months.

"I just came here to play hard, to learn, eager to play," said Gibson. "I'll do whatever needs to be done. I'm just there trying to play ball, to play ball with the team."

Pub Date: 11/04/97

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