Written by SportsDayDFW.com
How Garland Naaman Forest center Prince Ibeh went from tall, awkward freshman to HS basketball star
Editor's note: This story originally ran on January 5, 2012.
GARLAND — Long before Prince Ibeh signed a letter of intent with Texas, confirming his superior basketball talent, he was a freshman inhabiting the most ordinary of places, the freshman team.
As Garland Naaman Forest coach Jeff Clarkson puts it, “Most guys recruited at this level probably skip freshman basketball. That’s how raw he was.”
Teammate Demarcus Holland, who mentions that he bypassed the freshman team for junior varsity, says of Ibeh, “He’d try to lay it up. And it never worked.”
Three years ago, Ibeh was a tall, awkward freshman who somehow became even more awkward when he stepped on a basketball court. He has turned into a star. Recruiting website Rivals.com ranks him No. 54 in the country. Many a random website call him the best shot blocker in this class. And not only can Ibeh lay it up now, but also he can dunk and, when the time is right, shoot a mid-range jumper. His offensive improvement needs to continue for Garland Naaman Forest to reach its goals of a deep playoff run.
“The next step is going to be the hardest step, really becoming the offensive player,” Clarkson said. “A lot of guys never do it.”
Ibeh started playing organized basketball in eighth grade from a humble motivation. He wanted to play because he was bored. When football season ended, he had little to do. Friends and family stated the obvious. He was tall, about 6-5 at the time, and he should play basketball.
Those first two seasons were tough for Ibeh. Clarkson remembers watching him rebound his own missed layups. He would miss one, get the rebound. Miss one, get the rebound. It was a never-ending cycle.
But Ibeh developed a love for the game and the competition. The summer before his sophomore year he began practicing with the TA Pistons and Plano’s Rashad Smith, who now plays at Tulsa. Ibeh finally progressed in drills that tested his shooting and dribbling abilities. He had also sprouted to about 6-9 (he’s now 6-11).
Colleges were immediately interested. They saw what always came naturally. They saw Ibeh owning the paint, blocking shots and altering some that he never should have been able to reach.
To this day, Ibeh says he’s never “worked” on his blocking skills. He has added strength to his legs and to his arms, but he’s never studied or practiced shot blocking. He just watches the ball, times his jump and puts his 7-4 wingspan to proper use.
“I can’t really explain it,” Ibeh said.
Last year, Naaman Forest started to rely more on Ibeh, and it made the second round of the playoffs. This year, Clarkson has wanted to run the offense through him.
At times, it has done that, like when he scored 17 against Denton, or on Tuesday against Lakeview Centennial when he led the team with 13 points. Naaman Forest won both games. In two of its worst losses, to Allen and Southlake Carroll, he finished with a total of five points.
Ibeh needs to score, and he can. He has taken that next step Clarkson talks about. He just has to take a bigger one.
IN THE KNOW | Prince Ibeh
Position: Senior post
School: Garland Naaman Forest
Size: 6-11, 230
Averages (going into Tuesday): Seven points, 8.5 rebounds, one assist, 5.6 blocks