PACMEN WHERE ARE ALL THE BRILLIANT PLAYMAKERS? THIS TRIO OF PAC-10 POINT GUARDS PROVES THE WEST HAS THE BEST

January 27, 1997

It was one of the rare times the father had watched his son
play, but last Thursday night's game at the Los Angeles Sports
Arena was not a tearful reunion for Southern Cal coach Henry
Bibby and his son Mike, Arizona's freshman point guard. It was,
more than anything, an unavoidable crossing of paths mandated by
the Pac-10 schedule. Father and son had been estranged for a
decade, ever since Henry and his wife, Virginia, separated
bitterly after Henry began traveling the world to pursue his
dream of coaching. Before Thursday's meeting, Henry and Mike had
not spoken for a year. The last time had been the day Henry
phoned to offer Mike a USC scholarship, and Mike had turned him
down on the spot. During the game the Bibbys never made eye
contact, and Mike turned in his worst performance of the season.

Forty minutes after Southern Cal's 75-62 upset victory, in which
Mike scored just four points, Henry sent one of his assistants
to the Wildcats' locker room to ask if Mike would speak to him.
The two Bibbys met briefly in the hallway outside the dressing
room. They shook hands. According to Mike, Henry whispered, "You
played a good game. You played hard. Keep working, and you'll be
great." The words of a coach more than a father. Mike nodded,
and the two men hugged tentatively.

This summit represented a brief break in the storm clouds that
hover over the Bibbys' relationship. It also provided a rare
snapshot of two bookends in an era of wondrous point guards in
the Pac-10.

For a quarter century, from Henry at UCLA in the early '70s to
Mike in the late '90s, the Pac-10 has been the nation's top
conference in producing point guards. No. 1 at the 1, as it
were. The evidence can be found in the NBA, where there are
seven starting point guards from the Pac-10, more than from any
other conference (chart, page 44), including such All-Stars as
Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. The last two NBA Rookie of the Year
awards went to former Pac-10 points--Damon Stoudamire in '96 and
Kidd, a cowinner in '95.

Meanwhile, back in the college ranks, it is being argued,
particularly west of the Rockies, that the Pac-10 is nurturing
three of the four best point guards in the country: Bibby,
Stanford's Brevin Knight and Oregon's Kenya Wilkins. (The fourth
is Jacque Vaughn of Kansas.) Bibby says he signed to play at
Arizona because of the Pac-10's brilliant legacy of developing
point guards and because of the Wildcats' prolific playmaker
factory, which in the last decade has produced Stoudamire and
NBA reserves Steve Kerr of Chicago, Reggie Geary of Cleveland
and Khalid Reeves of New Jersey. But Bibby also makes it clear
that his idol is Kidd. "He's my favorite player," Bibby says.
"When I was in high school, one Arizona writer called me Jason
Kidd with a jump shot. That's the best compliment I've ever
gotten."

Bibby, the first freshman to start at Arizona since Sean Elliott
in '85, has displayed the fierce leadership common to both his
father and to Kidd. Ten minutes into his first college
game--against North Carolina, no less--Bibby sensed that his
team was struggling, so the freshman ran down the court
directing traffic and barking, "Relax! Relax!" His teammates
settled down to upset the Tar Heels 83-72, and Bibby scored 22
points. "Bibby's the real thing," said North Carolina coach Dean
Smith. "He is going to be something to watch. It seems like
nothing can faze him."

Indeed, in the Wildcats' Pac-10 opener, against Cal on Jan. 2,
Bibby nailed two free throws with 3.6 seconds left to give
Arizona an 81-80 victory. He already has a school record: eight
steals in a game (an 83-78 win over Texas on Dec. 9). Through
Sunday he was averaging 11.9 points per game, was third in the
conference in assists (5.8) and fifth in steals (2.4), and had
guided what was supposed to be a rebuilding Arizona team to a
10-4 record and a No. 11 ranking in the AP poll. "He's the best
guard we've ever recruited," says Wildcats coach Lute Olson. "I
don't know if I've ever seen anyone pass like him. He is one of
those kids you have to beg to score."

Says Arizona State coach Bill Frieder, "Bibby's a guy who will
be a lottery pick anytime he wants to go out. I can't say he'll
grow to be as good as Jason Kidd, but right now he's much better
than Jason was as a freshman because he can shoot the ball."

About the only guy who had shut down Bibby before he faced USC
was Knight, who held him to four points in a Jan. 4 game in
Tucson won by the Wildcats 76-75. "He's the quickest guard I've
ever played against, and he locked me up from the opening tip,"
Bibby says of Knight. "Maybe I underestimated him."

For most of his career Knight has been sold short--literally. "A
lot of people look at Brevin and say, 'Wow, he isn't very big,'"
Stanford coach Mike Montgomery says of his 5'10" senior. "But
you can't predict the size of a guy's heart. Brevin's a gnat you
want to swat, but he never goes away."

At week's end Knight was averaging 15.9 points, was first in the
nation in assists according to the latest NCAA stats, with 7.7
per game, and was tied for second in the Pac-10 in steals, with
2.6 per game. He made 6 of 7 shots from three-point range in the
Cardinal's 109-61 drubbing of UCLA two weeks ago, and he
clinched an 83-81 win over Seton Hall with two free throws in
the final seconds of overtime.

The Cardinal was 7-23 the season before Knight arrived, but the
team has won at least 17 games every season since then. Even
after dropping a road game at Oregon State last Saturday,
Stanford (now ranked 17th) was 11-3 overall and 4-2 in the
Pac-10, with an excellent chance of winning its first conference
title since '63. "Brevin's a leader," says UCLA coach Steve
Lavin. "With his poise and confidence, watching him is like
watching Joe Montana at quarterback. He makes everyone on his
team believe."

Knight further enhanced his reputation while playing for USA
Basketball's 22-and-Under Select Team, which gave Dream Team III
its biggest scare last summer. Knight had eight points, five
assists and four steals in a 96-90 scrimmage loss to the pros.
"He showed some great moves," said Charles Barkley after the
game. "That little guy can play with anybody."

Knight has come a long way from the days when he was passed over
by Seton Hall recruiters even though his mother, Brenda, worked
at the school; his father, Melvin, had starred for the Pirates
in the late '60s and early '70s; and Brevin himself had once
been a Pirates ball boy and had attended Seton Hall Prep. While
his college options were limited, Brevin says that he chose
Stanford for the chance to play in a league of premier guards.
"Playing in the Pac-10, I've borrowed a little bit from some
great point guards," he says. "Kidd taught me that even if
you're a first team All-America, you should work as hard as the
12th man on the team. [Tyus] Edney showed me how to be the
consummate point guard, the leader. Stoudamire led the league in
scoring and assists his senior year, so I learned that you can
score but still keep everybody in the game."

Yet of all the talented point guards Knight has faced in his
college career, he is most impressed with Oregon's Wilkins.
Perhaps that's because Knight sees a lot of himself in the
Ducks' point man. Both players are generously listed at 5'10".
Wilkins has started every game and Knight all but one since the
pair arrived as freshmen in the fall of '93. And both players
have helped turn their basketball programs around.

The Ducks lost 20 games the season before Wilkins joined the
team, but as a sophomore in '94-95 he steered them to a 19-9
record and their first NCAA tournament appearance in 34 years.
This year he guided Oregon to a 10-0 start, its best in 22
seasons, though the team then fell on hard times in conference
play, losing four straight games. Wilkins holds the school
record for steals and will soon break the record for assists. He
was scoring 15.6 points per game through Sunday while shooting
51.4% from the floor and 80.9% from the free throw line and has
already won two games this season with baskets in the final
seconds. He would be a cinch for the Frances Pomeroy Naismith
Award, given to the nation's top senior under 6 feet, if it
weren't for Knight.

Still, Wilkins has always struggled to make a name for himself.
In fact, before his birth his mother, Shirley, had hoped for a
girl and hadn't considered any boys' names. So the maternity
nurses tossed dozens of suggestions into a hat, and Shirley drew
three. She strung the choices together to make Kenya Damien
Alton Wilkins. When Kenya was being recruited by UCLA out of
L.A.'s Dorsey High, the Bruins lost any chance of signing him
after they got him confused with his backup because of a jersey
snafu.

Finally, after twice being named the Pac-10 Player of the Week
this season, Wilkins is getting noticed. He is one of 30 players
nominated for the Wooden Award, which goes to the nation's best
player of any height. "Kenya's the most underrated player in the
country," says Washington coach Bob Bender. "He puts 40 minutes
of pressure on you. We haven't been able to shut him down for
four years."

Both Wilkins and Knight agree that each has benefited from the
challenge of playing the other. Last season Knight scored 30
points against Wilkins in a Stanford victory in Palo Alto; then,
during the rematch at Oregon, Wilkins got his revenge with 30
points of his own, including the game-winning jumper--over
Knight--as time expired. Last Thursday night in Eugene, the two
met for the seventh time in their careers, and Knight secured
Stanford's 72-69 overtime victory with six points in the extra
period.

"All the personal rivalries are a big reason why the guards are
so tough in this conference," Wilkins says. "Brevin and I have
battled each other for four years, and then we try to beat up on
the younger guys. Each generation prepares the next."

The chain stretches all the way back to 1968, when young Henry
Bibby of tiny Franklinton, N.C., chose to flee the ACC area
because scholarships for black players were rare in the
conference then. Instead, he went to UCLA, where a college
basketball national title was a virtual gimme. He won three
straight NCAA crowns in Westwood, feeding the ball to Bill
Walton and Sidney Wicks and already thinking of himself as a
coach on the floor. Bibby is part of a continuum that runs from
Paul Westphal and Gus Williams to Ron Lee and Lafayette (Fat)
Lever, to Kevin Johnson, Kerr and Eldridge Recasner, to those
seven current NBA starters, to Knight, Wilkins and Mike Bibby.

Moments after Henry's meeting with Mike last Thursday, the USC
coach walked back to the Trojans' locker room, where he ran into
Kevin Augustine, his prized point guard recruit for next season.
Bibby told Augustine about a film he wanted him to watch: a
highlight reel of Brevin Knight. "I want to help you become
another great point guard in this league," the coach told
Augustine. "I'll make you the next Bibby."

It speaks highly of the point guard tradition in the Pac-10 that
it wasn't clear which Bibby he was talking about.

COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO Knight (22) made his last game at Oregon memorable by scoring six points in overtime to seal a Cardinal victory. [Brevin Knight in game] COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Before he became an NBA All-Star, Payton honed his skills at Oregon State. [Gary Payton in game] TWO COLOR PHOTOS: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH When two generations of Pac-10 guards met, it wasn't exactly a fond reunion for Henry Bibby (right) and his son Mike (10). [Henry Bibby; Mike Bibby in game] JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Wilkins (left) may not get as much publicity as his peers, but foes can attest that he's one tough Duck. [Kenya Wilkins in game]

Making The Point

With seven starting point guards in the NBA, the Pac-10 leads
all conferences as a wellspring of playmakers. As this list
shows, that superiority is not only quantitative, but also
qualitative. Here are the standings of all the conferences with
more than one starting point guard in the NBA.

NBA STARTERS TEAM

PAC-10 (7 PLAYERS)

TERRELL BRANDON (OREGON) CAVALIERS
TYUS EDNEY (UCLA) KINGS
JASON KIDD (CAL) SUNS
DARRICK MARTIN (UCLA) CLIPPERS
ROBERT PACK (USC) NETS
GARY PAYTON (OREGON STATE) SUPERSONICS
DAMON STOUDAMIRE (ARIZONA) RAPTORS

ACC (5 PLAYERS)

KENNY ANDERSON (GEORGIA TECH) TRAIL BLAZERS
TRAVIS BEST (GEORGIA TECH) PACERS
MUGGSY BOGUES (WAKE FOREST) HORNETS
SAM CASSELL (FLORIDA STATE) MAVERICKS
STEPHON MARBURY (GEORGIA TECH) TIMBERWOLVES

BIG EAST (3 PLAYERS)

SHERMAN DOUGLAS (SYRACUSE) BUCKS
ALLEN IVERSON (GEORGETOWN) 76ERS
MARK JACKSON (ST. JOHN'S) NUGGETS

CONF. USA (3 PLAYERS)

NICK VAN EXEL (CINCINNATI) LAKERS
ANFERNEE HARDAWAY (MEMPHIS) MAGIC
ROD STRICKLAND (DEPAUL) BULLETS

BIG 12 (2 PLAYERS)

MOOKIE BLAYLOCK (OKLAHOMA) HAWKS
DAVID WESLEY (BAYLOR) CELTICS

WAC (2 PLAYERS)

GREG ANTHONY (UNLV) GRIZZLIES
TIM HARDAWAY (UTEP) HEAT

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)