There is one short break. No 5-on-5 scrimmaging. Intense footwork, cutting off lanes, details to defense.
If people believe Phoenix Shadow Mountain built its basketball dynasty because its most famous hoops alumnus is a magnet for out-of-state talent, they’re wrong.
Mike Bibby, who helped the University of Arizona to its only NCAA championship as an unflappable freshman point guard in the 1996-97 season and spent 14 years playing in the NBA, is laser focused for two hours.
“The reality is we never scrimmage,” said assistant coach Michael Warren, a former head coach at Tolleson High School and Glendale Community College. “We do timing and situation stuff. The rest of the stuff is individual work.
“He works at skill building. It is skill building ad nauseam. He works it. It’s every day. It’s not rolling the ball out. It’s not scrimmaging. It’s skill building. It’s basic basketball. It’s over and over and over again.”
Don’t try to interrupt Bibby for an interview, not in the middle of practice, even during a break. Bibby meets with assistants at a table, goes over the next part of practice, what they’re looking to accomplish, as players drink water.
Mike Bibby doesn’t have his team scrimmage but the intense repetition of drills pays off for Shadow Mountain dynasty
Richard Obert, azcentral sports
The Matadors once again are loaded and ready to make their way to New York as the best team in Arizona. They’re getting ready to start their sixth season under Bibby, who is looking for his fourth consecutive state championship and fifth in six seasons.
They probably would be taking aim at their sixth consecutive state championship had point guard Michael Bibby — Mike’s son — not missed the tournament his junior year because of a knee injury in 2015. The state semifinal loss to Gilbert Christian was the last time Shadow Mountain lost to an Arizona team.
They’ve won 71 consecutive games against Arizona teams since then.
Senior guards Jaelen House and Jovan Blacksher Jr., who have picked up their leadership roles even more, have never lost to an Arizona team since they became starters as sophomores. Both were raised on Bibby basketball, starting out in his AAU program that disbanded after Mike’s son graduated from high school in 2016.
This is not a program feeding off of his club program. In the spring and summer, the Matadors go their separate ways, latching onto club teams, while Mike still plays, as a guard for the Ghost Ballers in the BIG3.
This year, Shadow Mountain lost Antonio Reese, who moved back to Chicago. But it is probably the deepest team Bibby has had with three out-of-state move-ins, including 6-foot-10, 250-pound center Malik Lamin from Minnesota.
Lamin first enrolled at Phoenix South Pointe, a charter school that doesn’t play in the Arizona Interscholastic Association, before transferring to Shadow Mountain this school year. He will have to sit out the first half of the season because of the transfer rule.
But Shadow Mountain has always thrived under Bibby without a big man, and should get great help from brothers Davon (6-5, junior) and DeVontes (6-3, freshman) Cobbs, who moved in from Milwaukee.
“I think I bring a great element to the team, a physical big man, because they never had that,” Lamin said. “Now they have a big man to play other big men, and I think it will be good. Like when we go up against teams like Montverde (Academy from Florida), Oak Hill (Academy in Virginia). I’ve played against most of those guys in the EYBL circuit.”
Bibby probably demands more from House and Blacksher than anybody else. He wants them to be the most vocal, to yell at teammates to keep the pace going strong.
It’s for a good reason.
“We want to win a national championship,” House said.
Bibby’s drills are non-stop. It’s about filling lanes, getting back on defense, cutting off the baseline.
“It’s the beginning stages of defense,” Bibby said after a recent workout. “It’s stuff that they probably haven’t learned their whole lives. I’m getting them in the beginning stages of this and see how the process works out.”
Bibby will sometimes put 40 minutes on the clock. He’ll take half the team with an assistant taking the other half with each taking ends of the court. They’ll go through 20 minutes of ball-handling, then 20 minutes of shooting.
“The kids go, ‘Hey, Coach, when are we going to get to play?’ ” Warren said.
But it’s not denying what they’ll need to utilize in games.
“We try to give them everything as far as game-like situations,” Bibby said. “We don’t scrimmage but we’ll have defensive rotations, when they’re going 3 on 3 or 4 on 3.”
It makes them hungry for games when they are unleashed and pressure teams into turnovers and an array of fast-break points. By the end of the first quarter, the game is put away.
Expect for when they met Tucson Salpointe Catholic in last year’s 4A final and were down by double-digits at halftime. Bibby didn’t chew his players out. He simply went over adjustments. As Salpointe’s lead grew by as much as 22 points in the second half, Bibby was calm on the bench.
Shadow Mountain, led by House, rallied for an 83-79 win.
“When the leader is under control, it helps everyone else,” Warren said.
The focus for this season has been even keener from Bibby.
“He’s fiercely driven,” Warren said. “If you know him he doesn’t like to lose at anything. He’s very competitive. He gets a good feel for where he thinks a team is at. I remember coaching against Tom Bennett when he was at Mesa (Community College). He said it was not so much about the players but how they had to play in order to win. That seems how Mike is.”
And it starts in practice. And no 5-on-5s with the loser running gassers.
“They don’t want us to get hurt,” Blacksher said about the lack of scrimmaging. “I think that’s why we have so much fun when we play. We’ll do scramble, 3-on-2, 2-on-1. That’s pretty much our scrimmage.”
Bibby has taken things from everywhere he’s been, from high school with Jerry Conner at Shadow Mountain and Royce Youree in AAU ball, to Lute Olson at UA, to Rick Adelman in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings.
Last summer, he followed the Memphis Grizzlies during their Summer League.
He wants to be a head Division I college coach. He sent resumes to every Div. I opening he could find after last season.
But the longer nobody goes after Bibby to be a Division I college head coach, the longer Shadow Mountain remains as Arizona’s best high school basketball team.
“I’ll see how the year turns out and go from there,” he said.
To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.