The long-running pipeline of baseball talent from the metro-east to Missouri State University added another name with the recent verbal commitment by talented O’Fallon High sophomore infielder Josh Gibson.
The Bears currently have three other Southwestern Conference players on the roster and two seniors are starters, former Belleville West infielder Aaron Meyer and former Edwardsville outfielder Blake Graham. The other is former Belleville East catcher Drew Millas, a freshman.
“The coaching staff was amazing, they brought players in during my visit after the camp and I just really enjoyed it,” said Gibson, who went to a Missouri State camp last fall and spoke with Meyer and other Bears. “I really love (MSU) Coach (Keith) Guttin, he’s a really great guy.
“He showed me a lot of love when I went there and I loved the facilities, too. It’s real close to home so my family can come watch me play and I’d like my grandparents to come watch me play, too.”
Guttin has been the MSU head coach since 1983 and the program has 1,176 wins under his direction.
Current Belleville East junior left-hander Ben Cruikshank committed to Missouri State in October. The metro-east connection also includes Bears’ pitching coach Paul Evans, a Granite City native.
Gibson may be an early commitment, but he’s committing to a Division I program at about the same time as former O’Fallon teammate Brad Harrison. The News-Democrat 2016 Player of the Year and All-American committed to Southern Illinois University Carbondale as a sophomore; he is about to begin his freshman college season.
Both players committed before playing a game in their sophomore seasons at O’Fallon.
The early offer does mean a lot to me. I’m glad that Coach Guttin has his trust in me that I’ll be good in his program. I think it’s the right fit for me.
O’Fallon sophomore Josh Gibson on committing to Missouri State
Gibson (5-foot-8, 160 pounds) burst onto the area scene as a freshman, starting every varsity game for the Panthers last season at second base. The son of former Belleville East and SIU Carbondale outfielder Brian Gibson hit .309 with four doubles, two triples and 14 RBIs last spring and also had a .430 on-base percentage.
Missouri State saw Josh Gibson play several times over the summer while he was with the St. Louis Gamers travel team, including at the University of Missouri.
MSU gave Gibson his first scholarship offer and he was more than willing to commit early.
“The early offer does mean a lot to me,” Gibson said. “I’m glad that Coach Guttin has his trust in me that I’ll be good in his program. I think it’s the right fit for me. I’ve got to get bigger, stronger and faster. Everybody else is getting in the weight room and getting better.
“I’ve still got improving to do.”
O’Fallon High coach Jason Portz really likes Gibson’s upside, but also understands why Division I programs are interested this early in the process.
He’s got a strong arm and advanced skills, the kid is strong and explosive. The tougher the game and the tougher the situation, he’s able to elevate the speed of his game to fit that need.
O’Fallon coach Jason Portz
“In Josh’s case, I feel like he really is favorable to Missouri State and regardless of who offers him between now and (his senior year), Missouri State would have been in his top one to three schools in the entire country,” Portz said. “It’s a school he feels comfortable with and its a level he can definitely step in and excel at if he continues to grow as a player.”
Portz said the versatile Gibson could see time at second, short or third this season.
“Josh has so much room to grow as a player,” Portz said. “He’s a very good player right now and he projects Division I talent, but he can really get better. He’s definitely getting stronger and I think he’s going to be able to handle the shortstop position just fine at the high school level.”
Portz said Gibson offers an intriguing mix of hitting and slick fielding along with a strong arm and quick bat.
“He’s really a toolsy player,” Portz said. “He’s got a strong arm and advanced skills, the kid is strong and explosive. The tougher the game and the tougher the situation, he’s able to elevate the speed of his game to fit that need.”
Among the former area stars who have played for Missouri State include former major leaguer John Rheinecker (Gibault) along with Dante Brinkley (Belleville East) and former O’Fallon standout Brooks Colvin.
Brinkley and Colvin each played in the minor leagues. Portz said Colvin and Gibson, both infielders, are similar players.
“Those two guys are almost the same player when they were younger,” Portz said. “Brooks was not a big kid, he was a lot like Josh. They’re good scrappy defense-first players that also run well and handle the bat well.”