Big man on campus: Ellender’s Talbot signs with La. Tech

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The Tri-parish area’s biggest prep baller is taking his game to Ruston for the next four years.

Ellender High School senior center Gilbert “Gibby” Talbot announced this week that he has signed to continue his playing career with Louisiana Tech.

“Louisiana Tech is a great academic school,” Talbot said. “I know that I can get a degree and I can further my education there. Secondly, I had a great relationship with [Bulldogs’ head coach Michael] White and the entire coaching staff. I’m really on board with what they are trying to do.”

Sure, Talbot stands a whopping 6-feet, 10-inches and weighs a massive 260 pounds.

From those beast-like measurable, it would be easy to assume that collegiate athletics was a sort-of manifest destiny for the Patriots star.

But Talbot would be the first one to say that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Talbot didn’t pick up basketball until late adolescence and, even today, the Patriot is still “a puppy” within the sport.

Those around Talbot boast that his success is a combination of hard work, determination, coaching and a sheer competitive desire to be one of the best players in the area.

“It’s been a crazy rollercoaster ride,” Talbot said. “Coming in as a sophomore and not having much basketball experience and then turning things around and becoming the player that I’ve become, it’s a special feeling and it’s something that I’ve very proud of.

“Because when I got here, I didn’t ever really think that I had a chance to be a college basketball player.”

The early days – always the big kid

Comfortably sitting inside the Ellender High School locker room, Talbot smiles, thinking of earlier days.

“I had a lot of fun as a kid,” Talbot said with a laugh, running his fingers through his short brown hair. “

From his earliest childhood days, Talbot was raised around the world of sports.

Gibby says he played “everything” as a kid.

Some of the sports were organized through youth leagues. Others were backyard battles played out in various Houma neighborhoods.

Some games were won, others were lost. Regardless, Talbot always had some sort of ball in his hands.

“We played everything – I was always big into sports. I was raised around sports,” Talbot said. “We played football, baseball – anything. Baseball was actually the sport I’ve been playing the longest. I’ve played that my whole life.”

Probably the reason Talbot was so drawn to sports is because of his size.

Gibby was always the biggest kid of his inner circle in both size and sheer body mass.

Talbot said he reached 6-feet tall early in his childhood.

“I was probably like 11 or 12,” Talbot said. “It didn’t take me too long to get there.”

But despite his mammoth size, one sport never really on Talbot’s radar was basketball. Gibby said he didn’t play the sport as a kid, because he didn’t like the beating smaller kids would deliver to him when he played.

“I had no interest in basketball,” Talbot said. “I used to watch the kids play it in the neighborhood. I didn’t like the physicality of the sport.”

That changed when Talbot enrolled at Vandebilt Catholic High School as an eighth grader. Now standing approximately 6-feet, 5-inches, the Terriers coaches convinced Talbot to join the team.

“Coach said, ‘You’re really big,’” Talbot said with a laugh. “He asked me, ‘Would you like to join the team?’ I told him I’d give it a shot.”

He did, but his transition was not an easy one.

“My first few days were rough,” Talbot said. “The court was so long. I was just like, ‘What am I doing here? Why am I playing this game?’ But I’m never one to quit on something. I just told myself that I was going to see it through and that I was going to get better at it.

“I hate failure. I would have never been able to live with myself if I didn’t stick with it and make progression.”

After two seasons at Vandebilt, Talbot’s family decided to transfer the big man to nearby Ellender where he could play for fellow big man, 6-foot, 5-inch coach Scott Gauthreaux.

It was as a Patriot where Talbot would experience all of his high school success.

Early tastes of success:

When Talbot got to Ellender, he became a member of one of the best Patriot teams in recent years.

With players like Trevon Lewis, Joe Wheaton and Dwayne Jones, the Patriots were one of the best teams in the Tri-parish area, with a 33-6 record.

Because of that depth, Talbot didn’t see the floor much as a sophomore – he says he still wasn’t ready to see full-time varsity action. Talbot averaged 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.

But he said Gauthreaux’s patience, combined with the leadership of the Patriots’ older players, taught him how to be an effective basketball player.

“Being under those guys and seeing how hard they worked, it just really started to get into my head,” Talbot said. “Coach Gauthreaux doesn’t do things just to be a butt-head. He does things because he wants the best for you. He’s been terrific to me.”

“Gibby’s willingness to work hard and fit in here has been a big reason for his success,” Gauthreaux said last season. “He’s wanted to improve from his first days here.”

The results started to show in Talbot’s junior season.

In that year, the Patriots’ center thrust himself into the starting lineup. He progressed so much that the Patriots slowed down their up-tempo style in some situations to feed Talbot the ball in the post.

Gibby finished the season averaging 14 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, enough to establish himself as a First-Team All-District selection.

But something just didn’t quite feel right for the Ellender center.

Talbot said he believed he had “a world to go” to get where he wanted to be as a basketball player.

During that summer, the Patriots center decided to work with local trainer Damon Bateast in an attempt to refine his game.

He lists that as one of the best decisions of his life.

“That sort of was the turning point for me,” Talbot said. “That pretty much changed everything.”

Bateast creates Louisiana Tech’s monster

“We were up at 6 in the morning lifting weights,” Talbot says with a scowl remembering the difficulty of his training. “Then we’d be in the gym working on basketball, then back afterwards lifting weights. It was just a crazy summer.”

Talbot and his trainer grinded their gears throughout the 2011 summer.

In the weight room, in the basketball gym – really everywhere imaginable, the two worked to make Talbot a more polished player.

Bateast worked with the Patriots’ giant on conditioning, strength, as well as footwork, post moves, shooting range and touch around the basket.

The trainer met with Talbot virtually every day, sometimes at sun-up on a given day.

Talbot said his motivation for progression was a desire to make Bateast’s efforts pay off.

“He sacrificed his time – his own, personal family time for me,” Talbot said. “Out of respect for him and for that, the least I could do was reward him by becoming a better player.”

The efforts worked – and then some.

As a senior, Talbot took the next step and was arguably the Tri-parish area’s best player.

Talbot averaged 25 points and 15 rebounds per game for the Patriots and was a force on the block throughout the season.

He recorded double-doubles in virtually every game, despite constant double and triple teams and smaller, less physical players hacking at his arms throughout the game.

“We’re definitely looking to get 20 and 10 from him in every game,” Gauthreaux said during before district play. “We’re expecting nothing less. … He’s come a long way.”

Because of his vast improvement, Talbot started to receive a flurry of collegiate interest.

The Patriots center said he chose the Bulldogs over Boise State, Northwestern State and Tulane, among others.

He did so because of White, who nearly took the Techsters to the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

“And that team was mostly led by freshman,” Talbot said. “No disrespect to the upperclassmen, but if those younger guys could have that much success as freshmen, how good will we be when they are juniors and seniors?”

On the Louisiana Tech side of the spectrum, they believe they are getting a post player will room to grow who can become a force at the collegiate level.

“We are very excited to be adding such a terrific asset to our program on and off the floor,” White said. “Gibby is very physical and plays extremely hard. He’s long and is a lefty with good touch around the rim. … He has the work ethic to become a very good player for us.”

A very good player in college? That remains to be seen.

It sure is a far cry from where things once were for the Patriots center.

“I just can’t wait to get out there and do my best to have an impact,” Talbot said. “I never expected to be in this position. But I’m grateful to be here and look forward to making the most of it.”

Ellender High School center Gibby Talbot attempts a layup in traffic during a game this season.