With the opening night success of the Tucson Summer Pro League, word has quickly spread about the quality level of competition and entertainment value. At least one huge name in the state of Arizona wants in - class of 2007 uber prospect Jerryd Bayless.
If he comes, he wants one thing: to play against former UA All-American Mike Bibby.
Getting Bayless to come down even for one Sunday afternoon round of games might be on the level of some of the former Wildcats in terms of drawing a crowd. Bayless is a phenom around the nation and could possibly be No. 1 in the country this August when the class of 2007 rankings come out.
Bibby's presence alone would assure a capacity crowd at the JCC, especially because of his sparse involvement with the Arizona program after leaving for the NBA in 1998. Bibby and Bayless going head to head would be enough to get everyone who's anyone to attend.
A list of the state of Arizona's best players of all-time would surely include Bibby along with Arizona's 1989 Wooden Award winner Sean Elliott right at the top. Throw in Richard Jefferson (UA, 2001) and Fat Lever, too. Bayless has a serious chance to have his name mentioned among that foursome when his playing days are through at St. Mary's HS in Phoenix.
From what we're hearing, all Bayless has to do to make it down for next week's games is convince his mother to let him play. Having Bibby involved would make it hard for her to say no, especially because the former Wildcat is the player Bayless is always compared to.
When we spoke to Bayless a few months ago about the comparisons, the 6-2, 175-pound rising sophomore said that he likes the way Bibby shoots and the way he runs the team but that he also likes a point guard that will dunk on a center, too. Other than Bibby, Bayless admires Miami Heat rookie Dwyane Wade and the Hornets' Baron Davis. Wade is the player Bayless most closely resembles.
As a freshman at St. Mary's, Bayless averaged 21 points and 7.5 assists per game as he led the Knights to the region championship. He was named Region MVP as well as first-team All-State, an honor that is unprecedented in Arizona high school history.
Bibby won three state championships while playing at Shadow Mountain HS in Phoenix and won multiple state Player of the Year awards before being named a McDonald's All-American as a senior.
Bayless is on track to have a Bibby-like career so the comparisons aren't likely to end anytime soon. By playing against one another in the Tucson SPL, however, at least the 15-year-old Bayless would finally see how he matches up against one of the best point guards in the NBA.
Call it a challenge or call it a litmus test, but Bibby vs. Bayless would be a must-see event.