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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


The purest point guard ever at Arizona, Bibby was silent leader of ’97 National Championship team

Courtesy Arizona Athletics

Mike Bibby was the Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year and the No. 2 overall draft pick of the Vancouver Grizzlies of the NBA in 1998.

Editors note: Mike Bibby and the rest of the 1997 National Championship team will be in attendance at the Red-Blue Game in McKale Center on Friday for the 20th anniversary celebration of Arizona basketball’s lone title.

At a program long known for producing the top point guards in the country, it’s worth noting that a freshman point guard led the way when Arizona won its first and only national title. Mike Bibby was the point guard for the university dubbed “Point Guard U,” when it won the national title in 1997.

Bibby chose Arizona over a number of other schools after having the most illustrious career in Arizona high school basketball history. He attended Shadow Mountain high school in Phoenix, where he was a three-time Arizona Player of the Year.

Bibby still holds several state records including career points and points in a season. During his high school senior season, he averaged 34.3 points and eight assists to earn All-American honors, and was one of the best premier guard prospects in the country.

Former Arizona head coach Lute Olson knew he had to have the prized prospect, and recruited Bibby throughout his high school career.

“[Bibby] is destined for greatness,” Olson said during a book signing prior to the 1997 season.

The illustrious young point guard quickly made a name for himself upon arriving in Tucson and started the season opener in the 1997 season, a game with future implications, against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Bibby made his presence felt right away, scoring 22 points to go along with five assists and three steals in Arizona’s 83-72 victory.

Arizona didn’t win the regular season Pac-10 Conference title or the conference tournament, but entered the NCAA Tournament as a four-seed.

After victories against South Alabama and the College of Charleston to open tournament play, the freshman began to etch his legacy in Arizona basketball lore.

Wildcat fans are familiar with the Miles Simon legacy during Arizona’s 1997 march to the Final Four. Simon was eventually named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, but wasn’t to be outdone by the fabulous freshman.

Bibby posted 21 points and five assists in Arizona’s Sweet Sixteen victory over No. 1-seed Kansas, out dueling All-American Jacque Vaughn. From there, nothing could get in the way of Bibby and the Arizona offense.

The Wildcats’ offense fueled the team in its overtime victory against Providence in the Elite Eight. Bibby once again outshined his opposition by suppressing Providence’s God Shammgod, the NCAA leader in total assists that season. 

The point guard had another clutch performance in the Final Four, scoring 20 points and sending fellow point guard and the NCAA all-time leader in assists, Ed Cota, back to North Carolina.

Bibby scored 19 points and four assists in the deciding game against Kentucky and was named to the All-Final-Four team, cementing his place as one of the all-time great freshman in NCAA history.

He returned for his sophomore season and won the Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year award after averaging 17 points and six assists. He left for the NBA in 1998 and was selected second overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies.

Bibby’s legacy at Arizona will always be the point guard who led “Point Guard U” to its first, and so far only, championship. The 1997 team provides plenty of nostalgia for Tucsonans with memorable performances from the likes of Simon and Michael Dickerson, but the most talented player on that team was always Bibby.

He was the lynchpin for Arizona and will forever have his name honored in McKale Center. 

Follow Chris Deak on Twitter.

Video Courtesy of Youtube.

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