Umoja Gibson transfer

North Texas guard Umoja Gibson drives past Oklahoma guard Jamal Bieniemy during a game at the Super Pit last season. Gibson is reportedly leaving the program as a transfer.

Umoja Gibson, North Texas’ second-leading scorer during its run to the Conference USA regular season title, is set to leave the program.

Gibson averaged 14.5 points per game as a sophomore with the Mean Green this season and was a second-team All-Conference USA selection.

A source confirmed to the Denton Record-Chronicle late Thursday that Gibson plans to enter his name in the NCAA transfer portal within the next 48 hours. The process had yet to be completed as of Thursday night.

Gibson confirmed his intentions on his Twitter account Friday morning.

“I will be leaving The University of North Texas & entering the transfer portal,” Gibson wrote. “I have accomplished a lot here and grown as a person on and off the court but it is time for the next chapter in my life. Mean green nation will be forever in my heart. Thank you all for an amazing experience.”

UNT coach Grant McCasland was expecting all of his team’s players with eligibility remaining to return as of Tuesday.

“There’s nothing new,” McCasland said. “No transfer portal news. No nothing.”

Gibson’s status has changed quickly since Tuesday afternoon. The 6-foot-1 guard played off the ball for UNT, which allowed the Mean Green to take advantage of his shooting ability.

Gibson, a Waco native, made 86 shots from 3-point range, where he shot 39.4% this season.

Gibson wanted to play the point guard spot to improve his NBA prospects and has not been satisfied with his role for the last two seasons, a source with knowledge of the situation said. Gibson nearly left UNT after his redshirt freshman season for junior college before electing to continue his career with the Mean Green.

UNT is set at point guard with Javion Hamlet, who was named the Player of the Year in C-USA as a junior this season.

UNT’s staff felt more confident in its ability to hang on to Gibson before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Mean Green’s players off campus, a source said. The situation limited the contact Gibson has had with UNT’s staff.

Gibson was a key cog in the Mean Green’s lineup while playing off the ball. He started all 31 games for UNT, which exceeded preseason expectations on its way to a 20-11 finish.

The Mean Green posted a 14-4 record in C-USA play and knocked off Western Kentucky in their second-to-last game of the regular season to clinch the conference title.

UNT was set to have four of its five starters return. Graduate transfer forward Deng Geu was one of three seniors on the Mean Green’s roster and was the only starter among the trio.

“We love our team and will be selective to get the right fits,” McCasland said Tuesday when he spoke of building around his core players.

Gibson suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the second game of his freshman season at UNT in 2017-18 and spent the rest of the year as a redshirt.

If he transfers, Gibson would have to sit out a season and would have just one year of eligibility remaining, unless he receives a waiver from the NCAA.

The NCAA is also considering changing its rules to allow players to transfer one time without sitting out. If that rule is adopted, it would also open up the possibility that Gibson will play next season at another school.

Gibson established himself as a primary scoring option at UNT. He was a C-USA all-freshman team selection last year, when he started 23 games and led the Mean Green with an average of 12.6 points per game.

Seeing the college basketball season cut short by the spread of COVID-19 was a blow for Gibson and the rest of his UNT teammates. The Mean Green were the No. 1 seed in the C-USA tournament that was called off after the opening round.

UNT will have high hopes heading into the offseason even without Gibson in the fold.

“We’re going to use this as motivation to work hard and do bigger and better things next year,” Hamlet said shortly after the C-USA tournament was called off.

The departure of Gibson marks the second straight season UNT has seen a key player transfer. The Mean Green lost starting point guard Ryan Woolridge after the 2018-19 season when he left the program as a graduate transfer and landed at Gonzaga.

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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