RALEIGH — Bria Gibson is an unassuming presence off of the court. The 6-foot-1 Sanderson junior describes herself as goofy and “pretty boring” and has a goal of opening a veterinary practice.
On the court, the 2013 Cap Eight girls basketball player of the year’s demeanor wavers between dominant and gentle as she leads the Spartans in scoring with 17.3 points per game, nearly half the team’s scoring average.
“She can be real easy going, and at times I stay on her about being more aggressive,” Sanderson coach Glenn Frazier said. “I think the most interesting thing about her is her humbleness. She doesn’t really want the attention. She doesn’t want the basketball. She would rather get her teammates involved, which is unusual for an athlete of her stature that can do so many things. She just buys into the team aspect, which to me makes her an even better player because she wants to get other people involved.”
Frazier believes that mentality is part of what led to Gibson winning the conference’s top individual honor last season as a sophomore, beating out Millbrook’s highly touted senior class of eight now-collegiate athletes for the title.
“I was probably just as shocked as everyone else was,” Gibson said. “I could have sworn that at least one of their D-I players was going to get it. I just feel like this season being Cap Eight player of the year, I have a lot to prove to show that I actually do deserve the title from last year.”
Gibson is a game-changing force on the court for the Spartans. Even if she doesn’t touch the ball, her size alone draws attention from defenses inside, and her ability to drive from the elbow keeps teams honest. Her unselfishness allows her to find Sanderson’s outside shooters once a defense collapses on her.
The Spartans are a different team with the co-captain, who serves as a calming force, on the court.
“Defensively, she’s big and can move,” Frazier said. “We can play her on a lot of different kind of players, and she can stay in front of them even with her size. She’s also big on the boards. We’ve got to have her on the boards, so her being on the floor is important for us in several different aspects of the game. ... She’s not the only piece, but she’s a major piece, and last year was the same thing.”
Gibson averaged 18.3 points and eight rebounds last season. Now, she is working to improve her mid-range shooting game.
“She always wants to know what she can do to get better, which is important for a player like her to not think that they know everything thing,” Frazier said. “She’s a great young lady to have in this program and to be a mentor to other players, especially the JV players. They can look up to her and they’re going to see a quality student, no discipline problems and a good athlete on the floor.”
Gibson, 16, moved to Raleigh her freshman year of high school. Originally from Baltimore, she comes from a lineage of tall basketball players and coaches and returns to Maryland in the summers to play with her AAU club, the Maryland Lady Shooting Stars.
She moved to Raleigh to live with an aunt after her mother died.
“I think the death of my mother gave me more passion for basketball,” Gibson said. “A lot of people say they lose their passion, but I think it gave me a stronger passion because I want to play and actually get somewhere so that she can be proud of me. We used to talk about me making it big one day and getting her all of this nice, fancy stuff. So I just want to still accomplish that goal, but even more now that she’s not here to watch it.”
This season, the eyes of the conference are on Gibson, who has a scholarship offer from High Point and is being recruited by other in-state schools.
“A lot of pressure comes with (player of the year) because people are going to look at me and say, ‘What can she do this year and how did she get better over the summer?’ ” Gibson said.
“At times it’s overwhelming because I have to work hard to show people that I actually did become a better player. ... But I like it because I’m looking forward to shocking people.”