Prep boys' basketball: Blackmon, Hibbert key to Layton's success
Layton • Kelby Miller wheeled a whiteboard onto the Layton High basketball court and gathered his team. On the board, the Layton basketball coach wrote a series of statistics detailing the success of the Lancers' 3-point attack in both wins and losses.
What the statistics revealed was profound. When the Lancers shoot a bunch of 3s, they tend to lose. When they forgo the long-range attack and instead pound the ball inside, they often win.
The simple reason? An immensely gifted frontcourt, consisting of 6-foot-9 junior Mike Hibbert and 6-6 sophomore Jarriesse Blackmon.
"When our focus is to go inside, play inside-out, we play a lot better," Miller said. "When we play off [Hibbert and Blackmon], ultimately we're going to be more successful."
Hibbert averages nearly 17 points and five rebounds a game, and Blackmon complements that with more than 11 points and four boards. But what makes the duo so dangerous is their versatility. While they both are big enough to mix it up in the post, they are athletic enough to play on the perimeter and even beat defenders off the dribble.
"[Athleticism] helps, especially if you have a big guy who's not very quick or fast," Hibbert said. "You can take him out to the wing, and you can shoot or drive. If you have a smaller guy, you can post up. You do different moves, just depending on who's guarding you."
Blackmon added: "We work off of each other."We read each other's minds. If I feel like Mike can beat his man in the post, we're going to give him the ball down low, and Mike's going to do the same."
As dangerous as Hibbert and Blackmon are with the ball in their hands, getting them touches has become one of the Lancers' top priorities. The duo combines for an average of 24.11 points in Layton losses. That number rises to 32.25 in Lancer wins.
Considering Layton has lost five of its games by five points or fewer, it's possible a few more touches here or there for the big men could have swayed some of those contests in the Lancers' favor.
"Ultimately, part of their success is the unselfishness of the other guys to throw them the ball," Miller said. "Both of them being underclassmen, it's kind of interesting how that's evolved."
Hibbert's and Blackmon's impact on defense matches their offensive significance. Since Hibbert stands 6-9, defenses must account for him in the post. And though he is a few inches shorter than Hibbert, Blackmon uses his 6-11 wingspan to cause just as much havoc.
With such length, Hibbert and Blackmon rack up several high-powered swats each game, and they alter nearly every shot in the post.
"My coaches used to tell me, 'You need to block shots and play defense. Your thing is going to be defense,'" Blackmon said. "I take a lot of pride in what I knew first, and that was blocking shots."
As good as duo is now they've attracted the attention of the majority of in-state college programs so far since they both are underclassmen, neither likely has hit his peak. Considering that and the fact Blackmon only began playing basketball three years ago as a seventh-grader, the Lancers are looking forward to the future.
"You almost forget Mike's a junior sometimes, and I sometimes forget I'm a sophomore," Blackmon said. "Then I realize me and Mike are coming back next year. I just get more excited, and it makes me want to work with him more."