By CASEY OLSON, The Mirror
Marcus Tibbs has played against the best and excelled against the best.
The Decatur High School senior guard proved that last summer while playing on the prestigious Friends of Hoop select AAU basketball team with some of the best college prospects in the state.
Tibbs suited up with guys like University of Washington-signee Isaiah Thomas, Rainier Beach’s Michael Ladd and Kentridge’s Renado Parker. And the 6-foot-1 Tibbs more than held his own at tournaments in places like Las Vegas, Portland, Dallas and Nashville.
“We did pretty well,” Tibbs said. “It made me a better basketball player. There is a lot more talent out there and you don’t get the calls in AAU like you do in high school games. It’s a lot more physical. It’s more like the college game than high school.”
Tibbs played more of a point guard position on the Friends of Hoop team and averaged about 10 points a game. Tibbs will move back to the shooting guard while playing for the Gators this season and will team with 5-7 point guard Michael Hale to form one of the best backcourts in the state.
“I worked a lot on my ball-handling skills and just playing harder all the time on defense,” Tibbs said. “Last year, I didn’t get down and play defense. So I worked on it.”
The offensive side of Tibbs’ game is already highly-developed. As a junior, Tibbs averaged 17 points, five rebounds and nearly three assists a game and earned All-SPSL North Division first-team honors. And like elite-level players, he is not afraid to take the final shot of the game.
Last year, Tibbs hit big shot after big shot all season long for the Gators, including late, game-winning shots in victories over Federal Way and Kentridge during the regular season. He scored more than 20 points six times, including 30 in the huge victory over Kentridge.
He can score the basketball from behind the 3-point line and slashing to the basket and is probably the fastest player, from endline to endline, in the state.
Tibbs’ junior season, coupled with his time this summer with the Friends of Hoop team, has raised the eyebrows of several Division I college basketball coaches. He has received a lot of interest from lower-level, Division I programs like Eastern Washington, Portland State and the University of Portland.
“I know I can get there,” Tibbs said. “I just have to keep my grades up and it will happen.”
But individual goals are all fine and dandy. But Tibbs is putting those aside this season in an attempt to lead the 2007 edition of the Decatur Gators to a place no other Federal Way district boys team has been — hoisting a state championship trophy.
And accomplishing that goal is not a far-off pipe dream. The Gators return basically the same team that rolled to a 23-2 record entering last year’s Class 4A State Tournament and won the ultra-tough West Central District championship. Decatur downed Snohomish in the first round at state before losing two-straight games to Pasco and Prairie, which are still front and center in Tibbs’ mind.
In the Gators’ two losses inside the Tacoma Dome, Tibbs was 0 for 14 from behind the 3-point line and was just 5 for 26 from the field. Both teams employed a box-and-one defense against Tibbs, which meant a defender was in his face at all times.
“Last year we weren’t really up to the box-and-one,” Tibbs said. “We hadn’t seen it all year and at state, that’s all we saw. This year, we are ready for anything that teams throw at us.”
The Gators have the most formidable starting lineup in the South Puget Sound League and maybe the state. Besides Tibbs and Hale (10 points a game), Decatur also received some great news last week when the governing body of high school sports granted 6-5 wing Darious Walker a fifth year of eligibility. Walker was a first-team, All-SPSL North Division after averaging 16 points and eight rebounds a game last year.
“I just want to take my team to state and get a ring,” Tibbs said. “We want to be the first in Federal Way to get a ring. We want to raise the bar and get it done.”
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org