Bibby makes allegiance to Arizona official

By Patrick Klein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

After almost nine months of waiting, prep basketball star Mike Bibby made it official yesterday he will suit up for the Arizona Wildcats next season.

Bibby, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound point guard from Phoenix's Shadow Mountain High School, signed a letter on intent on the first day of the fall signing period. He verbally committed to the UA in February.

Five other recruits Bennett Davison, Stephen Jackson, Eugene Edgerson, Quynn Tebbs and Justin Wessel have verbally committed to Arizona and are expected to sign.

"I feel good," Bibby said. "I've been waiting for this day."

Bibby is regarded by many scouting services as the best high school point guard in the country, and was named the best point guard at the Nike camp, a prestigious all-star summer camp for high school seniors.

"He's one of the best guards I've watched through the years," UA coach Lute Olson said. "He's probably the best guard in the West since (ex-California guard) Jason Kidd. We felt his signing was critical for the future success of this program. He's a player who makes everyone around him better."

Wildcat assistant coach Jesse Evans, the primary recruiter of Bibby, had a similar estimation.

"He is obviously one of the best players we have ever signed and I am looking forward to seeing him in an Arizona uniform next season," said Evans, who works with the perimeter players during practice.

In terms of national recognition, Olson said one would have to go back to the 1989 signing of guard Khalid Reeves, a graduate of New York's Christ the King High School and now with the NBA's Charlotte Hornets, to find a UA recruit with a reputation as highly regarded as Bibby's is coming out of high school.

How good is Bibby? He averaged 35 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and six steals last season, leading Shadow Mountain to the state championship game. But the most telling sign may be that some people are already asking Bibby if he'll stay all four years in college before heading to the NBA.

"It doesn't matter how long I'm there (at Arizona)," Bibby said. "I'm just going to take every year at a time."

Olson put a finer point on it.

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

Despite the hype, Bibby, who has impressed scouts with, in particular, his passing ability, said he feels no strain from leading a recruiting class ranked by many as one of the best in the country.

"I'm nervous about going in and playing against some of the top teams in the country, but I don't feel any pressure," he said. "I feel I can do the job."

Bibby said he was pleased with the quality of the other recruits, and Olson said Bibby's commitment was a key for getting those recruits.

"Players want to know they come in with a good class," Olson said. "While they maybe haven't played with him, they know how good he is, so it definitely had an effect."

Despite the expectations this year's class will carry, Bibby knows nothing has been accomplished yet.

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

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