It all started out with a grade school talent show and now Connor Libis has become his own talent show.
The standout from Dell Rapids St. Mary is a key reason why the Cardinals are back in the Big B for the first time since 2004.
While the senior is known for his scoring, it’s his ability to handle the ball that sets it all up.
“The way I really got my start was I used to do the talent show at St. Mary and I used to do ball handling. I would do a ball handling routine,” Libis said, recalling that in fourth grade he dribbled a ball to the song Eye of the Tiger. “So, people probably think of me and think of scoring and shooting, but you really can’t get anywhere if you can’t dribble. I think I really started to separate myself through my ball handling which allows me to get open and in turn allows me to be a great shooter, just be being able to handle the basketball.”
No one is denying the point guard’s ability to score. He enters the tournament ranked third all-time in scoring with 2,660 career points, behind Louie Krogman (3,521) and Don Jacobsen (2.825) and just ahead of Matthew Mors of Yankton (2,653).
“A lot of people bring it up, so I hear about it constantly,” said Libis, whose grandfather was from Eureka. “It’s an unbelievable able honor to be on there. It’s just an unbelievable feeling to be up on those names.”
Obviously, Libis is also DRSM’s all-time leading scorer, a distinction once held by current Cardinals coach Colby Fitzgerald.
“Records are always meant to be broken,” Fitzgerald said. “If it gets broken, you want somebody who works hard and is deserving. He’s definitely one of those individuals.”
Standing just 5-foot-9, Libis has found a way to make a big impact on games in a variety of ways. He does not let his lack of height deter him on either end of the floor.
“I’m not intimidated at all. I’ve never played with fear,” Libis said. “I’ve kind of lived by the mantra, ‘respect all, fear none.’ You really can’t play with fear. My size doesn’t effect how I can play and sometimes it can be beneficial. I feel like it allows me to be faster than a lot of kids. Defensively, I am able to get around screens a little easier. I try to use it more as a strength than a detriment, usually.”
And of course, there are always those handles which allow Libis to blow past defenders and break down most defenses.
“I really think that comes from the amount of reps that I’ve put in, the amount of practice I’ve put into the game,” Libis said of his quickness off the dribble. “Just being comfortable enough to be able to do that, because frankly, if you put me in the 100-meter dash, I feel like I would probably get killed by a lot of people. I don’t think I have straight line speed that’s out of this world. I think I’ve practiced so much to the point where I’m just comfortable moving at that speed and I’ve gotten so used to it that I can just do that.”
Fitzgerald said that Libis has worked hard on his game through the years.
“He uses pump fakes and jab steps and things like that to create separation,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s definitely mastered his craft.”
Combine his shooting ability with his ball handling, add a motor that won’t quit, and you end up with a player who can take over any game at any time.
“I definitely think it’s just his work ethic and his time in the gym. He’s always putting in the extra reps, pushing his teammates. He just makes everybody better,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s one thing that he always tells people with his stature, that it makes him want to work that much harder. It’s definitely paid off over the years. He may be smaller in stature, but he probably has the biggest heart on our team.”
Libis, who will play college basketball at Briar Cliff, is quick to credit his teammates. The group has found a way to the state tourney after falling short in past years.
“I think we’re really tough to beat when I have a lot of teammates playing like I know they can,” Libis said. “I have a lot of confidence in them to do what they need to do. It’s been a lot of fun.”
As a result, it’s been a memorable senior season for Libis and his seven senior teammates. They played for a state football championship last fall and now get to conclude their prep basketball careers competing in the state basketball tournament.
“You can’t ask for anything more than that. This school year with everything going on with COVID-19 causing a lot of problems for everybody, being able to end both of my last seasons at the highest point, football and basketball is a really big deal,” Libis said. “Personally, the best thing about the state tournament is getting to know the last time you put that jersey on. I think that’s the best thing. That’s the best thing I appreciate about the Dome. You get to know that last time you put that jersey on. That’s one of my things that I appreciate the most about it.”
Libis will be putting on a DRSM jersey for one last time this weekend. Chances are, he will be putting on one last show as well.
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