UMass-Lowell spokesperson Chris O'Donnell confirmed to ESPNBoston.com that incoming basketball recruit Tyler Gibson of Rockland High was granted a release from his scholarship to the River Hawks' program yesterday morning.
Following his release, Gibson, Massachusetts' Gatorade Player of the Year for 2013, gave a verbal commitment to Bentley University. He visited the Waltham campus on Sunday, then yesterday visited Merrimack College before making his pledge.
"I feel Bentley would be the best place to succeed," Gibson said. "No disrespect to Merrimack, I just think this is the best choice for my family."
The 6-foot-6 Gibson put in a monster senior season for Rockland, averaging 21.4 points, 15.3 rebounds and 4.8 blocks as the Bulldogs reached the MIAA Division 3 South semifinals. He was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year and also earned a spot on ESPN Boston's annual MIAA All-State Team. He's also a prolific track and field star, winning a state championship in the high jump earlier this month.
Gibson verbally committed to UMass-Lowell last summer, at the time coached by Greg Herenda, and signed a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period last November. Herenda left for the head coach job at Fairleigh Dickinson in April, and two weeks later Pat Duquette was officially named the River Hawks' new coach.
Last Tuesday, Gibson arrived at school for freshman orientation and finally met the new coaching staff. Several days later, he says Duquette told him and fellow recruit Jack Sullivan of Albertus Magnus High (N.Y.) that "there was no chance of us playing, and that it'd be in our best interest to leave and find somewhere else to go."
"I didn't really feel too bad," Gibson said. "As soon as I heard the news I knew I had to be quick. I didn't have time to be upset or anything like that. I simply moved on."
UMass-Lowell is preparing to make the jump from Division 2 to Division 1. The school is set to join the America East Conference on July 1, replacing Boston University, which is leaving for the Patriot League.
Of the conversation he had with Gibson, Duquette said, "Tyler and I had a very open and honest discussion about his future and what his options are. After that conversation he asked for his release."
Asked if he felt any ill will about the sudden turn of events, Gibson says he harbors none.
"Not at all," he said. "I kinda understand it's a business decision. He wants his own guys with the coaching change, that’s how it works. It's a business. New management comes in and the old people leave. Nothing personal, it's all good."
Gibson said he is still in the process of applying to Bentley, but should have "all my stuff set by tomorrow".