During his run of state championships at Phoenix Shadow Mountain, most of coach Mike Bibby’s players were under 6-foot-5.
Now, in his first season leading Hillcrest Prep, they’re mostly over 6-5.
“It’s the most talent I’ve seen,” Bibby said. “If they don’t play the right way and don’t play together, it will be tough for them.
“But if they play the right way and play together, they’ll be unstoppable.”
Welcome to the national high school stage, and the Bruins with Bibby will take center court against Prolific Prep on Thursday at 7 p.m. in a Hoophall West game at Scottsdale Chaparral High’s gym.
Hillcrest (8-0), averaging well over 100 points per game, is ranked No. 3 nationally by USA Today. Prolific Prep (11-0) is ranked No. 5.
Last year, at Hoophall West, the gym was packed to see marquee teams and players, including a showdown between Phoenix Pinnacle’s Nico Mannion and San Joaquin Memorial’s Jalen Green on the first day.
It was a show of shows with Mannion scoring 33 points and dishing out 12 assists and Green matching Mannion’s point total in Pinnacle’s 90-69 win.
Mannion has taken his game to the University of Arizona, and Green, now a senior, is at Prolific Prep and the No. 2 ranked player nationally in the 2020 class. He’s also teamed up with senior combo guard and No. 25-ranked Nimari Burnett.
The Hillcrest-Prolific game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.
Shadow Mountain won the last four 4A state basketball championship in the Arizona Interscholastic Association and five of six during Bibby’s tenure at his alma mater. Most of his Shadow Mountain teams were clearly the best in Arizona in any classification.
Bibby stepped into a gold mine at Hillcrest Prep, where he was greeted by 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior Michael Foster and 6-10 sophomore Sadraque Nganga. Those guys already have major-college basketball physiques, and yet Foster is still 16 and Nganga 15.
Add in 6-foot-6 senior and Arizona-bound point guard Dalen Terry, 6-7 wing Puff Johnson (a North Carolina signee, whose brother Cam starred at UNC and was drafted by the Phoenix Suns), 6-5 sophomore guard Devontes Cobbs and 6-8 junior forward Keon Edwards (a five-star who has an Arizona State offer), it’s no surprise they’re ranked so high.
They’re coming off a 115-81 victory over CIBA out of Irvine, Calif.
Prolific Prep will be by far the toughest opponent they’ve seen.
Hillcrest beat Prolific Prep twice last year. But that team didn’t have Green, and, combining with the 6-3 Burnett, they have national championship aspirations.
“I’ll be guarding one of those guys,” Terry said. “I know both of their games pretty well.”
The moment Hillcrest hit the national scene in 2015, it loaded up with the vision of co-founders Nick Weaver and Matt Allen to turn this into a national power that would surpass Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep.
It had current NBA players Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton to start. Got a big Nike sponsorship (last year the program switched to Adidas). Bagley left after a few exhibitions in 2015, before moving with his family to Southern California, where he ended up as the California Player of the Year at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and reclassified and became an instant sensation at Duke.