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American Marcus Tibbs overcame obstacles to find hoops home with Vikes

Life has a way of throwing up roadblocks, and Marcus Tibbs climbed a few of them on his way to finding a basketball home with the University of Victoria Vikes.
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Seattle native Marcus Tibbs has found a permanent home in the VikesÕ backcourt this season.

Life has a way of throwing up roadblocks, and Marcus Tibbs climbed a few of them on his way to finding a basketball home with the University of Victoria Vikes.

In his first year at UVic, Tibbs, from Seattle, will be the starting point guard when the Vikes meet the Fraser Valley Cascades tonight as both men’s and women’s squads play their home openers of the Canada West season. The women’s game against the Cascades tips off at 6 p.m. at McKinnon Gym, and the men follow at 8 p.m. On Saturday, the games are at 5 and 7 p.m., respectively, at McKinnon.

For Tibbs, considered one of the top-10 high school players in Washington state when he graduated in 2009, there’s no question what he expects out of himself and the team this year.

“The first thing is, I want to get a banner in this place,” Tibbs said, recalling how much it meant when his Decatur High School won the district championship. “I can go back and see that banner at my high school. Hopefully, we can get one here.”

Growing up, Tibbs excelled at sports from bowling to baseball, but by age 13, he knew basketball was his passion. In a perfect world, he likely would have made a smooth transition from high school to an NCAA Division 1 scholarship. Things changed in the ninth grade when his grandfather died.

“He raised me, he was my best friend,” Tibbs said. “I lost it. I’d go to school and just sleep.”

Tibbs continued to star on the court, but his grades suffered. His dad, Mark Tibbs — who plans to drive up to attend all the Vikes home games — worked double shifts as a truck driver, but he helped Tibbs get back on track.

Tibbs was granted an extra year of high school eligibility, and led Decatur to three state tournaments. But his academic history, and the red tape resulting from the extra year, affected his chances in the NCAA. A scholarship to Eastern Washington fell through when the coach left.

With money tight, Tibbs decided to attend Bellevue College, but the focus wasn’t there. He left school, and it took two years working on the docks for the focus to return.

“That’s definitely not what I wanted to do,” said Tibbs, who went back to Bellevue and the Bulldogs only to have his jaw broken in his ninth game back.

“It was wired shut for six weeks. I was blessed to at least have had UVic see me play.”

Beaucamp had spotted Tibbs at a pre-season tournament last winter, and checked him out with contacts in Seattle. A coach with the non-profit Friends of Hoop organization, Tibbs also worked out regularly with the Seattle Storm of the WNBA.

“It told me a lot about his character and personality,” Beaucamp said. “They had nothing but good things to say about Marcus.”

Beaucamp described the six-foot-one Tibbs as a NCAA Division 1-level athlete, who’s a true pass-first point guard, with great vision on the court. With Tibbs at point guard, Kyle Peterson has moved to the other guard position, giving the Vikes a one-two punch.

“Between them, we’ve got basically two point guards on the floor. Two guys who can really pass the ball,” Beaucamp said.

The Vikes, No. 4 in Canadian Interuniversity Sport rankings, began the Canada West season with victories over Brandon and Regina. The Cascades are also 2-0, after beating Lethbridge and Calgary.

The Vikes women came away from last weekend’s road trip 1-1 after a win over Brandon and loss to Regina. Against the Cascades, they’ll be facing the No. 3-ranked team in the country.

“The Cascades are experienced, and they’re tough and aggressive. They have a chance to really do some great stuff this year,” Vikes coach Dani Sinclair said. “But we have veterans, too, and we have to play to our strengths. If we play well defensively, and rebound the ball, we can play with anybody.”

sepp@timescolonist.com