Luther Gibbs (center) goes up for a layup in a game against John Carroll University in November, 2018.

The Christopher Newport University men’s basketball team earned their second trip in three years to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Division III basketball tournament. Former Culpeper County High School player Luther Gibbs was a freshman at Christopher Newport when the team advanced to the round of 16 in 2017 and is now a junior with the team advancing once again.

Unfortunately for Gibbs, he will be cheering his team on from the sideline.

“I broke my ankle and fibula and tore the ligaments in my foot,” Gibbs said. “I went up to block a shot and the guy fell on my leg as I came down and I fell on top of him but he was still on my leg. I suffered it [against St. Mary’s College of Maryland] and had surgery. I’m now in the process of being able to walk again as of [Tuesday].”

The injury ended Gibb’s season, a season that saw him get significant playing time including starting games for the Captains.

With Christopher Newport making it to the Sweet Sixteen there is a moment of what-if for Gibbs. He doesn’t allow himself to dwell on that feeling, however, as there is still the current moment that he needs to be present for.

“It definitely sucks not being able to play and knowing that I would be playing if it wasn’t for my injury, but one of the hardest things about being a leader is the sacrifice,” Gibbs said. “For me, I had to look at the big picture and realize we still have games to win and that the next man has to step up. Now, I just give to them what I can without physically playing, whether that be me scouting and being able to call out plays from the sideline, talking to guys about what I see, or motivating them to play to their full potential.”

That leadership quality has always been present in Gibbs, who was one of the leaders for the Blue Devils during his time at Culpeper. Having that quality, along with being a gifted player, allowed him to turn the heads of the Christopher Newport scouts. When he got to know the Christopher Newport basketball program, and what it’s goals are as a program, Gibbs knew it was the place for him.

One of those goals was to have a program that routinely found itself in deep postseason runs, like the current run it is on. For Gibbs, being a part of a program that has made it to the sweet sixteen twice in three years isn’t surprising.

“When I was getting recruited to Christopher Newport, I could just tell the culture and the atmosphere of togetherness reeked from the players and coaches,” Gibbs said. “For me, that played a huge factor because that’s one of the best recipes for success and that has proven over time.”

Despite the injury and being confined to helping his team from the sidelines, Gibbs still gets the full Sweet Sixteen experience. He travels with the team, goes to practice with the team, eats meals with the team, he is still as much a part of the team as he was before the injury. Gibbs loves being able to see the hard work that the team put in payoff.

Gibbs admits this injury and seeing the deep run of his team has motivated him for next season. Being able to play meaningful minutes in the postseason is the goal of any college basketball player. Still, while that idea of a future time is appealing, Gibbs stays in the here and now.

“To be honest I haven’t thought about next year because I’ve just been so invested in our season currently because although we have made it this far, we still have our ultimate goal in our sights, which is winning four more games and being the last team standing in this tournament,” Gibbs said.

The Captains play again on Friday when they take on Hamilton College.

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