Bibby is on guard against 'H' word Basketball: Star Arizona freshman Mike Bibby has no objections to talking about his game, but his father, Henry, isn't a favorite subject.

March 19, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Mike Bibby doesn't mind the comparisons to Jason Kidd, because he's got a better jump shot than the guy who plays up the road in Phoenix. He doesn't mind being mentioned in the same breath with Jacque Vaughn, because he's probably got a better future than the Kansas leader he'll bump into in the NCAA Sweet 16.

There is one ace point guard, however, whom Bibby would prefer not to be linked to. That would be Henry Bibby, the most successful floor leader ever in the NCAA basketball tournament, according to historians, but an absentee father, according to Mike.

One of the nation's best -- if not the best -- freshmen, Mike Bibby will shepherd Arizona into a Southeast Regional semifinal against No. 1 Kansas in Birmingham, Ala., Friday. He'll talk about Vaughn and discuss his own seemingly ego-free game, but please, no questions about his father.

"That kind of makes me upset," Mike Bibby told the Arizona Daily Star earlier this season, of the comparisons with his father. "They don't have to say Henry Bibby; they just need to say Mike Bibby. But every time after my name there's his name."

The questions will stop as he forges his own identity, but this winter Mike was the central figure in a messy soap opera in the Pacific-10 Conference.

On one side was his mother, Virginia, who scolded Mike when he talked trash in junior high and shooed him into the back yard when he needed work on his free-throw shooting. On the other was her estranged husband, Henry, the former UCLA star who surfaced as the coach at USC.

Henry was on the road as a basketball vagabond when Mike was growing up, and Mom was the one who rebounded for him.

Mike can say he never got any guidance from Henry, who won three NCAA titles (1970-72) at UCLA, whether the center was Bill Walton or Steve Patterson, but he inherited his father's shooting stroke. Shoulders square to the basket. Solid mechanics. Sweet result, one difference being that Mike doesn't put it up as often as did Henry.

Mike set an Arizona state record with 3,002 points at Shadow Mountain High in Phoenix, but he's been much more than a scorer in Tucson.

"He is right at the top of the list of the most coachable players I have ever had," Arizona coach Lute Olson said "He may be the most coachable. He has no ego whatsoever."

Bibby's assist-to-turnover ratio is better than 2-1, and the 80 giveaways are alleviated further by 66 steals. Still, his scoring average is 12.7, and he's not averse to torching any team overly concerned with forward Michael Dickerson or shooting guard Miles Simon.

Bibby had 22 points, five assists, three steals and two turnovers in his first college game, an 11-point win over North Carolina in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic.

"Bibby's the real thing," North Carolina coach Dean Smith said. "It seems like nothing can faze him."

He hit 64.9 percent of his free throws in the regular season, but made 10 of 11 as Arizona overcame late 10-point deficits in both of its subregional games in Memphis. Against the College of Charleston in the second round, Bibby scored 13 of Arizona's last 21 points and made a key defensive stop at the end.

"He has been clutch all season long for us," Olson said. "He very obviously doesn't play like a freshman."

Villanova's Tim Thomas was the only other freshman nominated for the John Wooden Award, which goes to the nation's best player. But there have been rookie lapses. Bibby was 1-for-10 in a two-point loss to UCLA in Tucson. He shot well a week later at Oregon, but was careless with the ball in an upset loss.

Maybe the competition had something to do with whatever freshman blues Bibby encountered. The Pac-10 put five teams in the NCAA tournament, and his father's USC outfit is the only one that didn't advance to the Sweet 16. Against Stanford's Brevin Knight and UCLA's Cameron Dollar, life isn't always a playground.

"It toughened him up considerably, playing against a lot of great point guards," Olson said. "I've always felt that the better people you play, the better your people become, if they are competitors. He [Bibby] is a competitor."

Now, the competition is Kansas, which has one loss to Arizona's nine. In a sense, the game will be a changing of the guard, as Vaughn, the nation's best point, meets Bibby, the heir apparent.

"Nothing has been fulfilled yet," Bibby said when asked about the personal satisfaction of reaching the Sweet 16. "That all depends on how far we go. I'm not looking at individual accolades."

He's also not looking for any more comparisons to his father.

NCAA tournament

Tomorrow's games

Midwest

Minnesota vs. Clemson, 7: 55 p.m., chs. 13, 9

UCLA vs. Iowa State, 10: 25 p.m.*

West

Utah vs. Stanford, 7: 40 p.m.

Kentucky vs. St. Joe's, 10: 10*, chs. 13, 9

Friday's games

East

Texas vs. Louisville, 7: 39 p.m.

North Carolina vs. California, 10: 09 p.m.*

Southeast

Kansas vs. Arizona, 7: 55 p.m.

Providence vs. Chattanooga, 10: 25 p.m.*

* -- approximate time

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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