How will a 5-foot-8 guard make it in the Pac-12?
Justin Bibbins hopes his past games against power conference teams can help forecast it for him. As a junior at Long Beach State, he averaged 10.1 ppg against seven Power 5 opponents last year (four ranked opponents including national champion North Carolina) and 12.6 ppg and 4.6 apg in three games against Pac-12 opponents (UCLA, Washington and Oregon State).
Next season as a senior, he'll test his mettle with the Runnin' Utes. As a graduate transfer with one year to play, Bibbins thinks he has what it takes to hang with an 18-game Pac-12 schedule.
"They have to guard my quickness and respect my shooting a lot of guys don't want to get as low as me," Bibbins said in an interview with The Tribune. "Playing all those games against the Pac-12 teams, I'm used to Pac-12 talent. It makes me feel more comfortable."
After signing with the Utes at the end of an official visit on Tuesday, Bibbins is expected to officially join the program this summer and bolster a backcourt with only three returning guards.
Bibbins averaged 13.1 ppg as a junior this past season, making his second straight all-Big West team while leading the 49ers with 4.4 apg. He shot 37.5 percent from 3-point range and 88 percent from the free throw line. Long Beach State finished 15-19, but fourth in the Big West.
Notably, Bibbins has ties to the Compton Magic AAU program, of which rising junior Sedrick Barefield was a part. While he never played on the same squad as Barefield, the two see eye-to-eye on the game, and when Bibbins played pick-up during his visit this weekend, the two got on well together, he said.
" Playing against him is always difficult, but playing with him this week, it felt real natural," he said. "We just tend to click, and we just work off each other."
Bibbins' addition gives Utah more options for the backcourt as a true point guard, Bibbins' presence could allow Barefield to play more off the ball, or allow the two to split ball-handling more evenly.
Transferring from Long Beach State, Bibbins said, was about removing himself from his comfort zone. A Carson, Calif., native, he said he wanted to leave Southern California while pushing himself to a higher level in his career.
Larry Krystkowiak and assistant Andy Hill helped convince him that Utah fit the bill and would be a home away from home. Bibbins also consulted Barefield, as well as former Utes Dakarai Tucker and Brandon Taylor.
"I loved the facilities, and all the guys are real cool," he said. "It was real fluid when I was out there, and the coaches were real supportive. … It was just really a personal choice. I wanted something different. The coaches made it feel real at home."
Bibbins said he has 20 credits to complete before graduating, 12 of which are electives. He's expected to complete his degree in July and join Utah soon after.
Utah still has a lot of work to do on the recruiting circuit, particularly in the backcourt: With Lorenzo Bonam graduating and Devon Daniels and JoJo Zamora transferring, the Utes need guard help to supplement Barefield, Parker Van Dyke and Gabe Bealer.
Utah has already signed touted forward Donnie Tillman. With Bibbins' signing, Utah has two available scholarships, with a third possible if Kyle Kuzma elects to go pro.