Bibby set to continue point guard tradition next season

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Steve Kerr, Khalid Reeves, Damon Stoudamire ... Mike Bibby.

Okay, it's probably a little too early to put Bibby, who won't even play at Arizona until August, on the list of famous Wildcat point guards. But the 6-foot-2, 180-pound prep star from Phoenix's Shadow Mountain High School could have something in common with them sooner than people think playing in the NBA.

That should tell you how good Bibby is. People are already asking how long the son of Hank Bibby, a former NBA player and UCLA great, will stay in Tucson before jumping to the next level.

Bibby does not know the answer to that question, and UA head coach Lute Olson said he doesn't care what the answer is.

"I'd rather have him for some time than not at all," Olson said.

The soft-spoken Bibby has a quiet confidence about what he thinks he and the rest of the top-rated recruiting class in the nation can do beginning next season.

"I don't want to get cocky yet, but I think we can do well with this team," he said.

It is usual for college coaches to take a skeptical approach to evaluating their prep recruits. But with Bibby, the most sought-after recruit in the history of Arizona high school basketball, the usual goes out the window.

The myth of Bibby is beginning to grow. He was named most valuable point guard at the prestigious Nike basketball summer camp earlier this year. Olson told a story of an Atlantic Coast Conference coach he talked to at the camp who, while impressed with Bibby's passing ability, wondered if the guard could score.

Olson responded, "Only about 35 a game."

But add about nine assists and six steals a night to that 35 points a game and itis easy to see how Bibby turned the state on its ear last season, leading Shadow Mountain to second place in the state tournament.

Nothing will change for the Matadors this year either, as Bibby will try to take his team to the title. As far as Shadow Mountain head coach Jerry Connor is concerned, Bibby is up for the challenge.

"Teams focus on him quite a lot," Conner said. "He is the key to what happens to us because he has the ball in his hands so much. But he's a good one to have it in his hands."

Despite being rated by many publications as the best point guard in the nation and being recruited by everyone, Bibby quickly whittled his choices to two: Arizona and UCLA.

You know the ending. Bibby said he didn't feel as comfortable in Westwood as he did in Tucson, and verbally committed to the Wildcats in February. It was that simple. The best point guard in the nation had his mother deal with the rest of the letters and calls from the other schools and waited for Nov. 7, the first day he could sign a letter of intent.

"I got the letters, and after awhile, my mom, she just took the letters for me," Bibby said. "(The recruiting process) has too long of a wait if you're really sure where you want to go."

The story would have ended in February if not for a development at Southern Cal. After Bibby made a non-binding verbal commitment to Arizona, the Trojans hired Bibby's father as an assistant coach. Bibby's father no longer lives with the family, and they are not close.

When asked if he thought the hiring of his father was an attempt to try to recruit him, Bibby said, "I think it was. I'm happy for my dad, but it really didn't make a difference to me."

Trojan head coach Charlie Parker said Hank Bibby's hiring was not a recruiting ploy, a stance shared by Shadow Mountain coach Conner.

"We were not recruiting Henry Bibby's son," Parker said. "He had already committed to Arizona before we hired Coach Bibby, so Coach Bibby felt very comfortable with the situation.

"There were some other factors there which I'm not at liberty to say, but he decided to go to Arizona."

Before being hired by USC, Hank Bibby wanted his son to go to UCLA. But Arizona had a tradition of point guards who were in charge of the offense and given a lot of responsibility. For a player with Bibby's talent, the more responsibility, the better.

"One of the reasons I decided to go to Arizona," he said, "was I like what they do with their guards."

Or maybe it's where their guards end up.

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