Bibby was special from the start

I was there at the start. I was there when the magic began. I was there when an 18-year old Mike Bibby first wore an Arizona jersey. It was clear from the start that he was something special.

Following Arizona's exhibition game against Sonoma State, Mike Bibby's jersey was retired, making him only the third Wildcat to receive the honor. Bibby now joins Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr as the only players who have had their jerseys retired. Bibby was one of the greatest players to come out of Arizona, and proved his great skill in his first game as a Wildcat. While his numbers help him in having his jersey retired, the main aspects are the players he brought in. Bibby now plays with the Sacramento Kings.

During Bibby's Arizona tenure, he was named an All-American, and All-Pac-10 player, scored 603 points during his sophomore campaign, holds the school record for most steals in a single season (87), and made 144 3-pointers in his two seasons. Bibby was drafted second in the NBA draft, tops for any Arizona player.

Bibby's freshman year was a special one. Alongside Miles Simon, Jason Terry, Michael Dickerson, and A.J. Bramlett, Bibby helped lead Arizona to their first National Championship.

Before Bibby came to Arizona, I knew how special he would be. When Arizona lost to Miami(OH) in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 1995, my father called the offices of Cat Tracks.

"Please tell me it hasn't happened again," my Dad said. "It's just not possible."

The Cat Tracks staff member then told my Dad something I will never forget.

"Yes it did unfortunately," the staff member said. "But don't worry. There is a guy named Mike Bibby coming here in 1996, and he is incredible. Just wait."

From that day on I waited. I waited through the 1995-96 season. I waited through a Sweet Sixteen exit forced by Kansas. However, the waiting paid off.

On November 22, 1996, my family and I left our home in Connecticut and traveled the 40 miles to Springfield, MA. It was there I would witness an event I will never forget. It was Mike Bibby's first career game.

This was only my second Arizona basketball game and I was so excited. I walked down to the floor and gave all of the players high fives as they ran onto the court. Little did I know that they would be National Champions in just five months.

During that game it became clear how amazing Bibby actually was. It wasn't his mere performance, including shooting 8-13 from the field, 4-8 from beyond the arc, and 2-2 free throws. It was his poise. Although it sounds hokey, he had an aura about him. He wasn't just playing basketball, it was almost as if he was manipulating the action on the floor. Seeing Bibby play in that game was awe-inspiring. He dominated every aspect of his game. Over the season, Bibby proved his value and surpassed his expectations, thought to be unreachable. It was the start of an amazing career.

The thing that made the night so special was the fact that I looked at this team that defeated North Carolina with Vince Carter and Antawan Jamison 83-72, it was clear how successful this team was going to be.

Bibby is a great addition to the retired jerseys on the wall in McKale. Despite Arizona's rules and regulations on what is necessary for a player's jersey to be retired, there is one thing that all of these players have in common. This one thing has set these players apart from all of the other greats who played for Arizona. It is the fact that the talented players Arizona has produced, would not have gone there had it not been for them.

All three of these players brought newer and better talent to Arizona. Without Steve Kerr, one can argue that future guards never come to Arizona. Without Sean Elliott, who is to say that Khalid Reeves, Damon Stoudamire, Reggie Geary, Chris Mills, Sean Rooks, Jason Terry, Michael Dickerson, and Bibby come to Arizona? Sean Elliott ushered in an era when Olson did not have to rely on gutty, heady players. Elliott brought more and more talent. Bibby's reign signified another shift in Arizona recruiting. Now the Wildcats were a national player in recruiting. Now they were an elite program. Simon, Dickerson and Stoudamire were all nice West Coast recruits, but after 1997 the Cats could go to Chicago, Indianapolis, Michigan, Philadelphia and Memphis for players. Without Bibby Arizona may not have landed Jason Gardner, Luke Walton, Andre Iguodala, Rick Anderson, Richard Jefferson and Mustafa Shakur.

Kerr, Elliott and Bibby are the ones responsible for bring the talent to Arizona. For that we are all grateful.

Congratulations Mr. Bibby.

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