One and done typically refers to a freshman planning on a short stay in college basketball. However graduate transfers with one final season of eligibility also join new programs each year. That easily can lend itself to a player using the season to showcase his individual ability.
It’s early, but Utah newcomer Justin Bibbins seems more focused on fitting in than showing out. A diminutive point guard at 5 foot 8 and 150 pounds, Bibbins excels at getting into the cracks of a defense and creating open shots for teammates. That’s what the former California high school standout intends to do for Utah.
After three years at Long Beach State and two second-team All-Big West selections, Bibbins will provide experience and playmaking in the backcourt for a Utes squad that lost four of its top six scorers from last season.
“I think a lot of production comes from Sedrick [Barefield] and Ty [Rawson],” Bibbins said. “Those two will produce big for us, and my job is just to get them the ball so they can be able to score.”
The Utes showed interest in recruiting Bibbins, but they already had a small point guard on the roster in Brandon Taylor and didn’t have a scholarship to offer Bibbins. Coincidentally Bibbins and Taylor, a two-time All-Pac-12 selection, both were on campus for a period of time this summer, and Bibbins got to pick Taylor’s brain.
Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak doesn’t run his offense exclusively through one designated point guard. The Utes like to have multiple players on the court capable of initiating the offense or being a scoring threat.
“You may think that Justin’s a point guard because he’s 5-whatever, but at the end of the day, the ball will be just as likely to be in the hands of our two and our three making the same kind of plays,” Krystkowiak said.
Bibbins averaged 13.1 points and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 39 percent from the floor (37.5 percent from 3-point range) and 88.5 percent at the free-throw line at Long Beach State last season.
The Utes’ foreign trip this summer helped Bibbins get to know his new teammates. He went into preseason practice already understanding where guys like to get the ball, knowing the strengths of his teammates’ games and recognizing individual voices on the court.
One player Bibbins likely won’t have much trouble getting comfortable with is Barefield. The two played for the same AAU club in California, Compton Magic, though they were on different teams. Their club teams practiced in the same place, so they’ve played against one another going back to Bibbins’ junior year of high school and Barefield’s sophomore year.
“We work well off each other,” Bibbins said. “It just depends on the game. Sometimes I’ll be off the ball, sometimes Sed will. It’s really whoever gets it, and we’re just going.”
Barefield, who transferred to Utah from SMU, played in 24 games (three starts) as a sophomore last season after becoming eligible to play in December. He averaged 9.0 points and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 42 percent (39 percent from 3-point range), and Barefield feels like he’ll be able to play more aggressive this season due at least in part to Bibbins’ addition.
“I always thought that he was a great point guard, made his teammates better, a great defender,” Barefield said. “So it’s just really cool to have him here because on certain trips he was always a guy who was really funny, a guy who was easy to talk to. He’s just a really good guy and really good player that’s fun to play with.”
Bibbins has had experience playing Pac-12 opponents in each of his collegiate seasons. Long Beach State played UCLA and Washington each of the past three season, while Oregon State (2016-17), Oregon (2015-16) and Arizona (2015-16) also were opponents during that time.
“He hasn’t come in and tried to thrust himself in anybody’s face,” Krystkowiak said about Bibbins. “He’s just, he’s a leader. He’s a mature kid, and he understands what he wants. [He] wants to win games. … I think his teammates love to be on the floor with him because they know he’s about the team. We’re looking for some nice little charge from him. I wish we had him for more than a year.”
Position • Guard
Year • Senior
Height • 5 foot 8
Weight • 150 pounds
Hometown • Carson, Calif.
Previous school • Long Beach State
The California kid • Bibbins led Bishop Montgomery to a California state title as a high school senior. He averaged 21.3 points, 5.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game that season, and he earned California Interscholastic Federation’s player of the year for Division IV. ... Bibbins garnered second-team All-Big West honors both his sophomore and junior seasons. He started all but one game for Long Beach State those two seasons. ... He ranked second on the team in scoring (13.1 ppg) as well as first in both assists (4.6 per game) and free-throw shooting percentage (88.5) last season. ... He averaged 10.1 ppg against seven Power 5 opponents and 12.6 ppg and 4.6 apg in three games against Pac-12 opponents (UCLA, Washington and Oregon State) as a junior at Long Beach State.