(courtesy of the Bibeau family)

The Bibeau years

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She catches the ball in her shooting pocket, both feet already squared towards the basket. In one smooth motion she elevates off the ground, the ball released before her defender can close the space between them. The only thing more pleasing than the textbook follow-through is the splash of the net as the basketball drops through the rim—her fourth three-pointer of the night. One hour later her brother catches the ball in the same spot, netting his own three in much the same way. Their shooting forms are nearly indistinguishable, developed through a childhood of basketball together.

Identical noises echo throughout Love Competition Hall in both contests: the squeak of sneakers on the newly polished court, the grunts under the rim, and the rhythmic pounding of leather on the hardwood. These are the sounds of the game the siblings have loved since they were little—the same game that has made them inseparable through the years, regardless of the distance between them.

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Simon Bibeau sits down, shedding his backpack with a sigh of relief. Standing an easy 6’2”, clean shaven with an unkempt sweep of hair, it can be easy to forget that he is a student first, and athlete second. Sitting next to him is his sister Hélène, two and a half years his senior, a neat ponytail of blond hair tied back behind a friendly smile. Both Bibeaus possess a sense of controlled confidence, complemented with a humbleness that belies their ability on the basketball court.

The siblings have stated that this will be their last season representing McGill—Hélène is playing out her last year of CIS eligibility, and Simon, an investment management major, is looking to get a jump on his life after basketball.

Born in St. Bruno, Quebec, the Bibeau siblings were raised abroad, with stops in  Morocco, Uruguay, and Mexico. When Simon was five years old, his father installed a basket hoop on top of his bedroom door, where he practiced his shot as often as he could.

“[My father] told me that my eyes lit up—I was very excited when I first touched a basketball,” he recalls.

Hélène, on the other hand, while retaining her family’s aptitude for sport, had managed to avoid the draw of basketball in her early years.

“In my elementary years I was more into girly sports like gymnastics and dancing and all that,” she says. “I don’t know why; I would see Simon and my dad playing but it didn’t really interest me that much.”

She had a couple more years of reprieve before she finally succumbed to the game in Grade 6, when her peers told her that her height would lend itself well to basketball.

(courtesy of the Bibeau family)
(courtesy of the Bibeau family)

Their first coach was their father, François Bibeau, a former Université Laval basketball player who drilled them on the mechanics of shooting from an early age. When they weren’t practicing their fundamentals they played HORSE together, interspersed with the occasional game of one-on-one. Although things between them never got too heated, the siblings’ competitive spirit was obvious early on.

“We had a basket outside our house,” Hélène says. “The memories I have are just of me leaving the court angry. At that time I was a post-player […] and Simon [has always been] a point guard. Even if he was younger he was always better than me. So I remember just sometimes being mad at that.”

Hélène and Simon both left home early to play for intensive basketball programs—Hélène leaving at 14 for Lévis, Quebec, and Simon at age 16 for Hamilton, Ontario. Hélène went on to represent McGill after playing for three years in CEGEP. Simon’s dream of playing Division 1 basketball in the United States ultimately fell-through despite serious consideration by Princeton and Dartmouth. As a result, he turned towards McGill—an attractive destination considering Hélène had just completed her rookie year there.

Upon arrival to McGill, both Bibeaus immediately turned their respective teams around. Hélène’s pinpoint shooting from range had an immediate impact on the Martlets, who used her unusual skill set as a post-forward to help stretch opponents’ defences. Simon’s handles, shooting, and control of the game helped the Redmen become a winning team after numerous losing seasons. Together, they turned two disappointing programs into perennial powerhouses. With the playoffs only two weeks away, both siblings are gunning for a final RSEQ Conference Championship.

As they recall their respective arrivals at McGill, however, an air of nostalgia settles over the conversation. The years have flown by and this is their swan song.

“I came in [four years ago] and I remember I was extremely keen on playing five years,” Simon says. “That’s one of the reasons why I chose number five—my goal and my vision was to play for five years, and I had set lofty goals about breaking records or being an All-Canadian [….] And it just didn’t pan out that way [….] I grew so much as a person, as a student, as an athlete—I think in all aspects.”

Five years ago Hélène had been picking out her jersey number. In the time since, she has had a wealth of experiences with the Martlets.

“I’ve always kind of been the mom for the team,” she says. “Before the playoffs I would always prepare motivational videos for the team and organize fundraisers [….] I love all the girls on the team [and] my coaches, and that’s why it’s going to be very sad to leave them behind.”

The Bibeaus’ impact on the basketball program at McGill is immeasurable. They are each stars in their own right—Simon for his scoring and passing prowess, and Hélène for her shooter’s touch and veteran leadership to the Martlets.

(courtesy of the Bibeau family)
(courtesy of the Bibeau family)

Despite their achievements as individuals, it may be their legacy as McGill’s Bibeau Siblings that will live on once their basketball careers are over.

“I think we both contributed to our teams—and I think they’ll remember us for our shooting I guess,” Hélène says with a laugh. “Oh, and [when in-game announcer] Rob Watt says, ‘Bibeau!’ [after either of us score]—my friends walk up in the streets and they all say it that way. It’s nice; I wish I could just put it in a box and listen to it.”

Although the Bibeaus have shared many special basketball moments together—most notably last year’s back-to-back provincial championship victories—it may be the siblings’ relationship off the court that stands out most, more than any individual or team accolade.

“I think what most of my teammates and my sister’s teammates and people from the McGill basketball community will remember is that my sister and I have a very special bond,” Simon says. “Sometimes it’s maybe even weird for the outsider to see how close we are and how we understand each other. Sometimes we have very funny moments and people laugh at how we act together because we are very goofy. I think that individually it doesn’t show, but when we get together there’s an explosion of fun and stupid stuff.”

For the Bibeaus, basketball is family. Even as they close out the current season and contemplate what comes next, they will always return to their roots.

“I think we owe it a lot to our parents,” Simon says. “I’d like to give them credit here because I think that they really provided us with an environment to blossom.”

And indeed, many years and coaches later, there is one person who knows their play better than any other. When asked whether their father is happy with their shooting form these days, the siblings laugh.

“I think so,” Hélène says. “Although he [still] has little critiques: ‘Be more stable; your feet should be low.’ But overall I think he’s happy.”