Film Room: Breaking down Prince Ibeh’s improved defense

Alykhan Bijani

Prince Ibeh, a 6-foot-11 senior center from Garland Naaman Forest, had shown brief flashes of potential his first few seasons. Then, he was forced into the starting role when fellow senior center Cameron Ridley went down with an injury on Dec. 27.

But it’s finally all come together in the past couple of weeks.

Ibeh is averaging over one steal and five blockers per-40 minutes for the second consecutive season. His physical attributes play a major role in his success. He has an enormous 7-foot-4 wingspan, a weapon for a rim-protector and switch-defender. He tips the scales at 250 pounds, but has very quick feet and moves with relative ease for someone that carries so much weight. 

On Jan. 26, Ibeh blocked five shots and pulled ten total rebounds. His defensive impact and integration into Shaka Smart’s defensive scheme helped limit TCU to 37 percent from the field.

“There aren’t a lot of bigs at the college level with his size,” Mike Schmitz of Yahoo Sports’ The Vertical and said. “Ibeh’s impact as a pick-and-roll defender is one of the things NBA scouts like most about him.” 

The pick-and-roll offense has become a staple of every college basketball team. In a new era of officiating and personnel, it’s necessary to have versatile and unique defenders on rosters. Ibeh’s ability to scramble around, close off driving lanes, and establish rim-protection during the full-court press is vital to Texas’ success.  

“Ibeh is an upgrade as a pick-and-roll defender because he gives you a lot more versatility,” Schmitz said. “Not only can he hedge and recover or drop and keep the ball in front, he’s also very good at switching ball screens and staying step for step with the guard.” 

During the second half, Oklahoma State was on a comeback, Ibeh’s pick-and-roll defense helped secure the win. 

This type of play is a basic screen-and-roll, giving the ball-handler the ability to get penetration and create scoring opportunities for teammates. Texas combats with a zone-up pick-and-roll defense. This type of strategy requires the big man to play a one-man zone at the elbow area or deeper from the key. The big has the responsibility of containing penetration of the ball-handler and mitigating the threat of the roll man. It provides options for the big man, making it his decision to seal the middle, mitigate the roll, give up the mid-range pull-up jump shot, or funnel the ball-handler to the help-defense. 

Notice the on-ball defender, freshman guard Kerwin Roach, Jr. once the screen is set. He communicates to Ibeh that they need to switch, and both get into position. Roach eradicates any threat of the dump-off or alley-oop by chipping and staying low on the roll man. Simultaneously, Prince Ibeh shuffles his feet, uses his body to shield the paint, and gets into position before the ball-handler is able to plant his dominant foot. 

The point-guard is forced to take a difficult floater, and Ibeh gets off his feet quickly and above the rim with relative ease. Staying vertical in the air, textbook non-foul contact.

“Prince Ibeh’s impact as a pick-and-roll defender is one of the things NBA scouts like about him the most,” Schmitz said.

With Ridley out from injury, Prince Ibeh has asserted his dominance, particularly on the defensive end. You can see his confidence growing. A player, taking advantage of his opportunity, and showcasing his skill set and potential to dominate defensively.