Liam Gibcus the center of attention for UAA

Jeremy Peters
Liam Gibcus of UAA, left, wrestles for position against Christian Morris of Washington Adventist during first-half action Thursday evening Nov. 15, 2012 at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.
Erik Hill
Liam Gibcus of UAA goes up for a score against Washington Adventistduring first-half action Thursday evening Nov. 15, 2012 at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.
Erik Hill

Listen to Liam Gibcus utter a phrase or two, and his accent makes it clear he's a long way from home.

Look at his 6-foot-10, 245-pound frame and it comes as no shock that he's here on a basketball scholarship with UAA.

The senior from Lysterfield, Australia, was somewhat hidden on the bench the last couple of seasons but is now prepared to play the biggest role of his four-year career with the Seawolves -- starting center.

"I haven't had the full responsibility of being a starter, the main guy at the center position, so I'm obviously feeling a bit more of the pressure, which is good and I feel like I'm responding well to that," Gibcus said.

His predecessor was Taylor Rohde, a consensus NCAA Division II All-American and National Player of the Year last season. Rohde was an offensive force who averaged 19.8 points per game and used a plethora of nifty post moves.

Gibcus, 22, knows he doesn't possess the same kind of flash, but he's confident his blue-collar style of play can be just as useful in producing victories.

"I'm not the prettiest player by any stretch, but I just try to get results by putting in and doing the hard yards for the team," Gibcus said. "Taylor and I are very different players."

As a freshman, Gibcus cracked the starting lineup late in the season, but Rohde transferred from Arizona State the next season and took over.

"Even he understood that Taylor was more experienced," UAA coach Rusty Osborne said. "To Liam's credit, he used it as a chance to get better over those two years."

Gibcus showed his improved skills by recording 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench in the last season's final game, a loss to Seattle Pacific in the semifinals of the West Region championships. He played 25 minutes in the game because Rohde was in foul trouble, and Osborne thinks that gave Gibcus a lot of confidence coming into this season.

Gibcus continues to work on his game and is getting help from former All-American Carl Arts, UAA's third-ranked all-time scorer and rebounder who played in the post for the Seawolves from 2004 to 2008.

Arts joined the coaching staff as a volunteer assistant this season and is working with all the post players.

"It's fantastic getting his evaluation of how I'm playing and getting his advice," Gibcus said. "I strongly value what he says."

Tips from Arts have translated to immediate success on the court, Gibcus said. Arts mostly points out simple aspects of the game that are being neglected. The most important skill Gibcus has gleaned is in finishing more aggressively when taking the ball to the basket.

Gibcus has a tendency to attack the basket with both hands on the ball, but Arts has reminded him to free one hand to shield the ball from defenders. Arts also helps Gibcus with his hook shot and the development of a complementary move to use when defenders try to take away the hook.

"What we're trying to envision for him is to be more of, if not a No. 1 option, a No. 2 option for scoring," Arts said. "In order for us to be successful, it's important that he plays a big role in that and he becomes offensively minded. If he's out there just passing the ball around, it kind of defeats the purpose of throwing the ball into the post."

Arts watched from the bench last weekend when Gibcus scored a career-high 20 points in a win over Washington Adventist. Gibcus attacked the rim, which not only led to his points, but opened things up for teammates on the outside.

"It's awesome," Arts said. "It's a great feeling, 'cause you always harp on it in practice. It's very rewarding to see him be that successful, and hopefully a game like that will give him confidence to be able to do that again."

One of Gibcus' biggest problems has been getting into foul trouble, something he attributes to an over-aggressive mind set.

"I just want the ball a little too much," he said.

Playing in a reserve role, his penchant for fouling didn't always hurt the team, but now that the Seawolves need him on the floor for the majority of a game, he is trying to tone it down.

"I can't come in running like a mad man all the time," Gibcus said. "I know what I'm doing wrong and I think I'll be able to improve on that."

As a post player he is bound to commit fouls because of all the contact, so the key, Osborne said, is avoiding silly fouls.

"The ones he has to limit are the ones he can control, maybe trying to slap the ball out of guards hand," Osborne said.

Gibcus said he's on track to graduate with an engineering degree next December, and after that he plans to return to Australia.

"I wasn't gonna come to America, 'cause I was happy back home," he said, "but I got the offer to come to Alaska and I thought it was just something other worldly that I'd never really thought about. I had no idea what I thought it was gonna be. I didn't even know there was a city in Alaska."

The weather back home is much milder than Alaska's, and Gibcus said he doesn't think Australians can understand how cold Alaska gets without coming here. But the cold is one of the things he likes most -- along with the extreme daylight in the summer and the massive amounts of snow in the winter.

"It's been a great experience," he said. "They've been really good to me here."

Reach Jeremy Peters at or 257-4335.