QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson girls basketball coach Jeff Burner thought Morgan Gibson could be a good experiment and she turned out to have an even bigger impact on his team that he would have first imagined.
Gibson had never played basketball before trying out for the junior varsity team as a freshman. Burner said he thought she had potential and they could turn her into a solid player and she picked things up very fast.
"She's just one of those things where we thought she'd be an experiment, but then it turned out like she's started probably half of the games of her career," Burner said. "And if not she plays large minutes in every game, because she's been able to contribute from the beginning. Defensively she was ready right away."
Gibson said she had always wanted to play basketball, but had never tried it. Finally as a freshman she decided to give it a try and immediately liked it.
She has always been a standout soccer player, mostly playing on defense. So it was no surprise that she picked up defense on basketball quickly.
"I probably like defense the most about the game, because I'm a really defensive player," Gibson said. "If you look at my stats I don't score a lot of points, but I try my best to lock down people on defense and that's really my strong point. I play defense in my other sport, soccer too. So I'm kind of used to tracking people down. It's just a lot easier for me and it's natural."
Gibson said playing defense in basketball is a lot like playing defense in soccer.
"It's actually really similar," Gibson said of the two sports. "Definitely basketball has made me better at soccer. too, because it's really taught me to sit down (on defense) and just kind of watch the ball. Offense is definitely a lot different than soccer. There's a lot more ball movement to it and stuff like that and team work. I think there's a lot more team work in basketball, I think."
Gibson said she wasn't sure what to expect when she first started playing basketball, but she feels like she's improved a lot.
"I was not good, when I first started because I had no experience," Gibson said. "So I've gotten to a pretty good point to where I'm happy with it. But I'm always looking to get better."
Gibson moved up to the varsity squad as a sophomore and saw solid playing time. Last year Gibson started some games and played a solid role, especially on the defensive side.
Burner said that Gibson is not afraid of contact and that is one of the things that helps her on defense.
"First off Morgan is probably our most physical player," Burner said. "I would say that her and (Stonewall Jackson senior) Kylene (Franklin) are right there in terms of that. Then Morgan didn't have a lot of basketball experience but she just quickly adapted to it. We felt like she was such a good athlete that we could get her minutes and she was able to guard both guards and posts. She's turned into one of our best defensive kids."
Last year Burner said he had the 5-foot-8 Gibson guard Strasburg's tallest players, 6-foot-4 Christyan Reid and 6-foot-3 Jaden Alsberry. In the second matchup between the teams, Gibson's defense helped slow down the pair in an eventual overtime loss to the Rams, who advanced to the Class 2 state semifinals.
"It was definitely a challenge because their so much taller," Gibson said. "But in the end I did pretty well against them, put that down to hard work and effort and just who wants it more. I think that definitely showed with their stats and how much they scored in that (overtime) game against me."
While defense is Gibson's strong suit, Burner said she has improved on offense.
"She's probably never going to be like a huge scorer or anything, but she's usually really solid around the basket," he said. "And we feel like she's improved her range to about 15 feet or so."
Sports has always been a family affair for Gibson and her sisters. She has two older sisters who were standout athletes at Stonewall Jackson. Her oldest sister, Hayley, set a school record in the 800-meter run in track and field and earned a track scholarship from Radford University. Her other sister, Casey, was a standout soccer player who scored 25 goals her senior year.
Morgan Gibson said they are all very competitive and push each other to be better athletes.
"I do have to try and live up to them, but it's not so much pressure because neither one of them played basketball," Gibson said. "So it's kind of like a whole new ballgame. We definitely are competitive with sports. We'll kind of work out together and push each other, and also with school we try to compete with that, too."
Gibson has already been named one of the team captains for this season. Burner said she's a good leader for the team.
"We want her to be one of our leaders," Burner said. "Kylene (Franklin) and (Stonewall Jackson senior) Eli (Dellinger) have been in that role for a couple years now, because they moved up as freshmen. But she wasn't too far behind. She came up right up as a sophomore and was thrown into a role quickly. She's definitely been someone that's contributed, and I think she's a leader just because she plays hard and she does all those things that you want kids to do."
The first practice of the season is slated for Dec. 7 and Stonewall Jackson is scheduled to open its season on Dec. 21 at East Rockingham.
Last year the Generals went 9-15, falling to Strasburg in the Region 2B quarterfinals. The Generals lost only one starter from last year's squad and Gibson said she thinks they can have a good season.
"One of my personal goals is just get better at defense and scoring some more points and help out the team as much as I can," Gibson said. "We have a lot of talented players and we work together pretty well. In the offseason we've been playing a lot of travel games. So I'm hoping that's going to help us work together even better. I think that we have a lot of talent on the team and we can really take it to the next level."