If you look at Utah’s roster, you will notice senior guard Justin Bibbins is listed at 5-foot-8. I stand a towering 5’5”. Ok. It’s not towering. But, I’m 5’8” in heels and I can let you in on a secret: Justin Bibbins is not 5’8”.
The senior transfer from Long Beach State is well aware that he is never the tallest man on the team. But watch him play. You will quickly notice that what he lacks in height, he makes up for in other areas on the court.
“You just have to prove yourself everyday. It’s a chip on your shoulder, but it’s just having to prove that size doesn’t matter out here,” said Bibbins.
As a junior at Long Beach State playing in the Big West Conference, Bibbins averaged 13.1 points per game and 1.3 steals. But how will he look on the floor against teams in the Pac-12 Conference? The Carson, Calif. native said he’s ready to show what he can do and will continue playing the game the way he always has – being a defensive spark.
“One thing I’d love to bring to this team is just defense -- taking charges. (It’s) a little bit of what I’ve done at Long Beach, a lot of off the ball stuff and just taking a lot of charges,” explained Bibbins.
The Runnin’ Utes could have used that energy last season after taking a loss to the Boise State Broncos in the first round of the NIT. No one was able to lock down Chandler Hutchison as he went off for 34 points that night inside the Huntsman Center.
Not only does Bibbins believe that he will help take Utah’s defense to the next level, he hopes his pass-first point guard mentality will free up some of his teammates and set them up for success.
“Getting guys open shots and bringing that to the team instead of just scoring. (I’ll bring) more of a passing aspect,” said Bibbins.
Bibbins, who addressed reporters ahead of the team’s 10-day European tour, officially moved to Utah in mid-July. After he asked to be released from Long Beach State, he said the decision to bring his game to Utah was easy, thanks to Sedrick Barefield.
“Me and Sedrick played on the same travel team so we were just talking about some memories back then,” said Bibbins. “When I first came on my visit he was the one that was there at coach’s house. We haven’t talked for a while, since high school days, but it was like we’ve known each other all throughout college.”
“Bibbins has been really good,” Barefield said. “He’s a vocal point guard. He likes to make his teammates better, he competes on the defensive end, and he can make open shots and make nice pull up shots. He adds a great dimension to our team. The more guards we have the better -- he’s really helped a lot.”
Coach Larry Krystkowiak is known for running a tight ship when it comes to the basketball team, especially with the point guards. It’s a trait Bibbins was looking for in a coach when weighing his options.
“All coaches need to be (tough on point guards) because we’re the floor generals. We need to know what to do out there on the floor. If they’re not hard on you it’s not the right program and I’m happy he’s hard on us,” Bibbins said. “I just try to take as much in from him to help me in the future.”
“It’s a kind of tough love,” said Krystkowiak. “He (Bibbins) wants to have a great senior year. That’s a kid that’s committed to going somewhere and finishing off his college career on a high note so it’s really important for him to have an understanding of what it is that we’re trying to do. He’s all ears. He’s soaking it all up.”