No one knows what the future holds, especially as a young teenager entering high school. For Jaron Tibbs, coming to Cathedral four years ago, he saw a future in basketball. Football was something he enjoyed, too, but basketball was his first love.
“I wanted to be a basketball player,” Tibbs said.
And he was a good one. The 6-5 Tibbs was an integral part of Cathedral’s Class 4A state championship basketball team as a junior and would have been an Indiana All-Star as a senior if not for conflicting schedules as he transitions to college.
It was about a year ago at this time Tibbs, following football offers from Big Ten programs Iowa and Purdue, knew that his future would be in football. Tibbs committed to the Boilermakers at the end of June and recommitted after the coaching change from Jeff Brohm to Ryan Walters.
While catching passes for Purdue is now his future, Tibbs will be remembered at Cathedral as a two-sport star and a winner. He is also the 2023 City Male Athlete of the Year, as voted by the athletic directors in the City and Marion County. Other finalists for the City award were Heritage Christian’s Myles Colvin and Covenant Christian’s Tony Flatt.
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The honor dates to 1950 (it grew to include female athletes in 1979) and is regarded as one of the top recognition awards for Indianapolis-area senior high school athletes. The awards are geared toward athletic achievement, but the winners also exhibit impressive credentials in academics and in their personal lives. Generally, multi-sport athletes are given consideration over single-sport athletes, though that is not always the case.
“Jaron was one of the best competitors in football and basketball we have had at Cathedral,” athletic director Rick Streiff said. “He will be known as an athlete with state championships in multiple sports. Not many at Cathedral can say that, especially with basketball and football.”
Tibbs was a part of two state championship football teams at Cathedral, breaking through as a junior on a team that won the Class 5A state title. In a 34-14 win over Zionsville in the title game, Tibbs caught 10 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns on a big stage at Lucas Oil Stadium.
He rolled right into basketball after that game, playing a key role on Cathedral’s Class 4A state championship team. Tibbs was not flashy. But he was extremely efficient, averaging 13.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists on a team that had four other Division I players in the starting lineup.
Tibbs was the glue.
“He was sneaky good,” Cathedral basketball coach Jason Delaney said. “He was around other talented players, but you look at the box score night after night and he would fill up the stat sheet. He was the best player on the floor some games. You could always count Jaron on a big stage.”
Tibbs was receiving basketball interest from Cincinnati, Kent State, UT-Chattanooga and others, but most college coaches realized his football recruiting was trending in a higher direction. Tibbs had another excellent season as a senior for the sectional champion and 19-6 Irish, averaging a team-high 16.3 points, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals, along with 6.0 rebounds.
Tibbs, who was named to the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Supreme 15 senior all-state team, finished his high school career with 1,012 career points.
“He never acted like a star,” Delaney said. “That was kind of the beauty of Jaron and Jake (Davis) and that championship team we had. They didn’t let publicity or ego get in the way. Jaron was really good at leading other kids, but you could never tell he was the best player from his interactions with people.”
Tibbs caught 61 passes for 910 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior on a Cathedral team that went 10-2 and won a Class 6A regional title. He set program records for career receptions (154) and receiving yards (2,479) and finished second in receiving TDs with 24.
Delaney called Tibbs “one of the best (basketball) players in the state of Indiana.” But he also happened to be one of the best football players.
“I kind of see myself as just an athlete,” Tibbs said. “Not necessarily focusing on one sport, but if I was focusing on one sport, I could do that. That’s kind of how I looked at it going into high school. I wanted to be a basketball player. I just started doing way better in football and it kind of took off from there. I started getting better looks, so I chose football.”
Delaney said he will remember Tibbs as a winner “and a happy kid.”
“He’s a great kid to be around,” Delaney said. “Very coachable and made guys around him laugh and have fun. You think about that smile when you think of Jaron as a person. As an athlete, he could pick up anything and be good at it. He did two big sports and did them both at a high level.”
Now he will focus on one. Delaney said the sky is the limit for Tibbs because of his work ethic, talent and IQ.
“I’m definitely going to miss it,” Tibbs said of basketball. “Basketball is my heart my whole life, but football is going to take me farther in life.”
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: City Athlete of Year: Cathedral football, basketball star Jaron Tibbs