Graduate student, Tai Bibbs, a transfer from Columbia University, has been able to execute on the basketball court, as well as demonstrates his strong character off the court.
Bibbs is back, after a career hiatus due to Columbia’s season being cancelled and not being able to play in his last year. The cancelled season, caused by the pandemic, led Bibbs to have an extra year of NCAA eligibility, which he chose to spend at Howard University as a graduate student.
Bibbs considers himself a true competitor. His longtime friend and teammate, Randall Brumant who played with Bibbs at Columbia and now at Howard, referred to him as a “gym rat who’s always working.”
Brumant and Bibbs have spent a lot of time together, as roommates all four years at Columbia and embarking on another journey together at Howard. They both chose “The Mecca” for similar reasons.
The Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kenneth Blakeny started coaching at Columbia University where he met Bibbs and Brumant. Bibbs was able to develop a close relationship with Blakeney before he took the Head Coach position at Howard in 2019.
“I had a really good relationship established with him already, so I didn’t necessarily need to take that time to get comfortable with the staff, I already knew him, I knew the staff that he had under him here, a great staff, so I was already comfortable kinda making that decision, knowing I was coming into a good situation,” Bibbs said.
Bibbs saw coming to Howard as an opportunity to add on to his Columbia degree, while also being at “one of the most prestigious universities that’s also an HBCU.” Blakeney and Bibbs were able to create a unique bond in the year they spent together at Columbia.
“He was one of the guys on the team that I spent a lot of time with doing player development stuff, but also, you know, really doing a lot of stuff off the court, just trying to be the person that could be there for him and be a mentor for him, a guy he can lean on for support,” Blakeney said.
When Blakeney found out about Columbia cancelling their season, Bibbs was definitely someone that came to his mind to recruit due to their previous relationship. However, he was more than just interested in the talent Bibbs could provide on the court, he was equally interested in who he is off the court.
“Tai’s character kind of stands and speaks for itself, and his work ethic and who he is as a man I think was the thing that was attracted to us the most because at the end of the day, we still have a very young team and program,” Blakeney said, “So I wanted to have some maturity that has kind of gone through it a little bit, and [someone] our players could kind of look at and kind of start to gravitate to and emulate a little bit.”
Bibbs leadership and work ethic is a characteristic that has been noticed by his teammates as well. Blakeney shares a story of freshman Bryce Harris and his impression on Bibbs.
“I remember having a conversation with Bryce Harris after the first day of one of our workouts and Bryce turned to me and goes ‘wow I love the way Tai Bibbs concentrates’,” Blakeney said.
Bibbs’ experience at an Ivy League school was often stressful and competitive on both the court and in the classroom. The constant competition is something that he believes pushed him to become who he is today.
“I think that prepared me to be ready for any challenges and prepared me for adulthood really. I’ve been through four very tough years at Columbia, I think it really helped me grow and mature as a young man, which is something I’m thankful for.”
Bibbs graduated from Columbia with a B.A. in Psychology and African American studies. He is pursuing his Masters in Sociology at Howard. Since coming to Howard, Bibbs has been able to feel a certain sense of comfort being at an HBCU.
“Even if I’m just walking past somebody and I compliment their shoes or something or their shirt. I expect a little conversation and then we follow each other on Instagram, stuff like that, like, didn’t happen a lot at Columbia. I’m like a social guy- let’s make friends, new people. It was definitely different in that aspect,” Bibbs said.
His teammate, Brumant, referred to Bibbs as “a very precise guy” giving an example from when they were roommates at Columbia.
“I remember being his roommate, like all his shoes are organized a certain way, all his stuff is organized a certain way and I would mess with him and just go and turn around a shoe or something like that and he’d walk in the room and see it immediately and just put it back. That kind of stuff kind of explains that he is very precise with everything he does,” Brumant said.
The Bison are 5-4 so far this season and Bibbs has been ready to showcase new talents he picked up during the past year he spent training and not playing any collegiate games. According to Coach Blakeney, Bibbs has been able to mesh “seamlessly” with the rest of the team.
“I don’t think a lot of people are expecting us to do the things that we have set in mind for ourselves, so I mean we had some pretty big aspirations. This is the best team that I’ve been a part of talent wise, since I’ve been in high school, college,” said Bibbs. “We play extremely hard and compete every single day. The competition level is extremely high every single day in practice, so I think that’s going to translate to the court and to our opponents.”
Copy edited by Jasper Smith