The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame recently announced its candidates for the Class of 2022, and Lenoir’s own Bob Gibbons is among them.

Gibbons, who recently retired as the publisher of All-Star Publications, was the guru of college basketball recruiting until Parkinson’s disease took him off the trail leading to the nation’s elite high school basketball talent. He is among several people who were nominated to the Hall for their contributions to the game.

The downtown Lenoir offices of Gibbons’ All-Star Publications also housed All-Star Scouting Services, and his annual ranked list of the 300 best high school players in the country was the go-to document for college coaches since 1978.

“I just feel blessed to have had the opportunity to help kids the way I was able to, to have a job that I enjoyed,” he told the News-Topic in September. “I have enjoyed it.”

The interest in the career he enjoyed so much soared with a 1958 meeting with Frank McGuire, who was then the head coach at North Carolina, in a Chapel Hill barber shop. Gibbons said McGuire gave him a job at the university’s Monogram Club, where the basketball team ate. The free meals were a welcome perk for a student paying his own way through college, he said, but being around Carolina legends Billy Cunningham, Larry Brown, Doug Moe and Dean Smith, who had just been hired as an assistant coach, sent his passion for the game skyrocketing.

Gibbons, who holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in business administration from North Carolina, tried life in the corporate world for a while, but basketball provided a stronger pull and getting his first basketball paycheck from Bobby Knight in 1978 gave Gibbons the confidence he needed to get All-Star Scouting Service off the ground.

The infamously difficult Indiana coach needed a big man, so Hoosiers assistant Joby Wright called Gibbons and asked for a hand in finding one. Gibbons compiled a list of every player in the country 6-foot-9 or taller and gave it to Knight, who compensated Gibbons for his effort.

“I worked for about a month and sent him the list,” Gibbons said. “I got a very complementary letter from Coach Knight saying, ‘You gave us a lot of information. I know it was a lot of hard work. Thank you very much.’

“I felt like if I could impress that blankety-blank, I might have a chance.”

He impressed plenty of other coaches along the way, including Lute Olsen, Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski. That’s also what made Gibbons one of the most influential people in the history of the game.

His praise of a player would perk up the ears of every college coach in the country because of the accuracy of his reports and his insight into players’ grades, attitudes and personalities made him into the guru of college basketball recruiting.

Gibbons could be blunt in his assessment of a player, said former Hibriten coach Chad Keller, a longtime friend who played for Gibbons on the Willow Street Middle School football team and worked with him for 20 years at various camps. Keller said his former coach wouldn’t pull any punches if a coach asked for an evaluation of a player.

“Bob is someone that does not like sugarcoating — he tells it like it is,” Keller said. “The day of social media allowing anyone to promote themselves or others as something more than what they truly are has impacted the game. Bob stuck by his ethical and moral standards and refused to buy into the flamboyant hype.”

South Caldwell coach Danny Anderson and West Caldwell coach Billy Anderson both worked with Gibbons and also were left with lasting impressions.

“I was fortunate enough to work with and spend a lot of time with Bob Gibbons,” Billy Anderson said. “His impact on basketball nationally was unrivaled. I was lucky to be involved with him.”

Danny Anderson said when you mentioned Gibbons’ name to high school players, their eyes would light up, and he said Gibbons’ reputation was stellar among coaches at the next level.

“My friends who were college coaches said you could always rely on his report,” he said. “Simply put, he was the best!”

A press conference announcing the finalists for the Class of 2022 will be held during NBA All-Star Weekend, which is scheduled to begin Friday, Feb. 18 in Cleveland, Ohio. The entire Class of 2022 will be unveiled during the Final Four in New Orleans in early April.

The enshrinement ceremony will take place in Springfield, Mass., Sept. 9-10, 2022.

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