Justin Ibieta’s football talent just part of a three-sport life

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Justin Ibieta
(Photo: Parker Waters)

Country Day junior Justin Ibieta is a rare breed. You could say he can do it all, and you would be correct.

Having already earned All District in three sports as a sophomore for the Cajuns, Ibieta has already garnered All State honors as a quarterback in 2018. He was the New Orleans area’s prep football player of the year.

After football, Ibieta again moved to the hardwood where he averaged 16.5 points and six rebounds for the newly crowned Division III state champions. Among his basketball highlight moments, Ibieta had a season high of 32 points while adding 11 rebounds and six assists against Class 1A finalist KIPP Booker T. Washington on January 29.

Justin knows baseball, too. His repertoire on the diamond includes a fastball that touches 90, along with a .500 batting average.

The idea that Ibieta could finish All State in three sports as a junior is not out of the question. The talent is clear to see but his competitiveness is what jumps out at you. He strives to be the best.

“He wants to be good at everything that he does,” gushed Country Day football head coach Joe Chango. “When he first stepped in at QB, he didn’t know what it entailed. As he progressed he started asking questions.’Why did that safety do that?'”

Ibieta’s questions led to answers he absorbed to shine in Chango’s spread offense.

Country Day boys basketball under Mike McGuire is a state power, so it’s no surprise that Ibieta played on the varsity on a state basketball championship team in 8th grade. He also played on the varsity baseball team in eighth grade.

Yet many think Ibieta’s future should be first and foremost at quarterback. His football coach won’t argue with that.

“His competitiveness is unbelievable and he also has a special skill set. He’s 6-foot-5 with a rifle arm. He’s smart. He has all the physical qualities that you’re looking for in a QB, plus he has all the intangibles,” Chango raved.

In 2018, Ibieta completed 67 percent of his throws for 2,906 yards, 38 touchdowns and five interceptions. He tacked on 1,023 yards rushing with 17 scores. In a thrilling performance against Newman, Ibieta tossed for 404 yards and four touchdowns in a comeback win aired live on Crescent City Sports.

In the state semifinals against defending Division II champion Catholic New Iberia, he tossed for 335 yards and four scores while adding 143 yards and four additional touchdowns as a runner.

Ibieta welcomes a challenge during any contest.

“The bigger the game, the bigger the stage, the better he is,” explained Country Day baseball coach Tommy Mathews. “He doesn’t get rattled.

“In a heated game last season, the opposing fans were riding him. He struck out 10 batters in five innings.”

The All Metro baseball player version of Ibieta bats cleanup and flashes some leather as an infielder when he’s not on the mound.

“He is a tremendous shortstop with great range, like Cal Ripken,” Mathews continued. “He can go in the hole left or right. He’s got a great arm. He doesn’t get to spend much time on baseball as he should. He’s so spread out.”

Meanhwhile, in the classroom Ibieta maintains a 3.5 GPA and has a 30 on the ACT to his credit already.

Ibieta’s talent is in his bloodline. His dad Juan played baseball at Jesuit and Tulanewhile his mom Julie was a volleyball player at LSU. His sister is currently playing volleyball at Tulane.

His success comes from more than just physical ability.

“During his junior season, he was far along as anyone at this stage as anyone I have ever seen,” said Chango. “He can place his throws on location. He understands why this has to be an outside shoulder throw and why a comeback throw has to be low and away. He is already advanced as a young QB. It all comes from pitching, why this throw has to be located in a spot or on the outside corner. He understands that in sports.”

With experience, Ibieta has gained confidence and trust from Chango and his coaching staff.

“He already has the option to check out of certain play, make a 3 step drop, throw a slant , hitch or vertical, whatever he sees. We have him doing some read option, within the parameters of the (defensive) front, coverage, down and distance. He does have a lot of leeway,” explained Chango.

Ibieta was extended an offer by Southeastern head basketball coach Jay Ladner when he was in eighth grade. If he concentrated on the hardwood, there’s little question Ibieta could be a successful NCAA Division I player.

“He’s our best all around player,” said McGuire. “His passing ability, his vision is amazing. He is one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever had. He can dribble or shoot with either hand.”

College coaches from three different sports are always asking what will be Ibieta’s future top priority. He has many options to ponder.

“Schools ask if he just wants to play basketball. If he ever decided on one sport, his skill set in that sport would escalate. He has been in three sports his entire life. His skills are better because of other sport participation though. He has really good feet for a quarterback and shortstop because of basketball. He can maneuver in the pocket because of basketball. He’s a mismatch on the court.”

Ibieta is a New Orleans area native but it’s not Drew Brees nor Peyton Manning after whom he models his QB style.

“He’s an Aaron Rodgers guy because of his ability to make tough throws,” Chango shared. “The spots Rodgers can place the ball, he emulates that in his own game.”

Interestingly enough, Ibieta happened on to football as an afterthought, but after leading a local team to a runner-up finish in a national flag football tournament as an eighth grader, a light came on for him.

Coaches from coast to coast have made their way to the Country Day campus ever since. More are sure to follow.

“Tulane, South Alabama and Northwestern State have all offered,” Chango said. “Ed Orgeron (LSU) knows about him. Mark Stoops (Kentucky) has visited. Wisconsin, USC, North Carolina all are watching closely.”

The schools in the chase will only continue to grow along with Ibieta’s exposure.

“He will compete in (camps) Rivals, Nike and the Elite Eleven. That will open up a lot of things for recruiting,” Charge explained.

Ibieta’s new football star is just beginning to shine.

“A year ago at this time, we weren’t sure that he wanted to play football,” added Chango. “We were thinking that he might want to concentrate on baseball or basketball, but after this past season we all sat down( with family) and he realizes that he might have a future in football. Last summer he didn’t worry about camps, but this summer things are different. He will make a tour and hit a lot of camps. He’s definitely legit.”

As the process continues within the next few months, Justin, his family and his coaches will begin to concentrate on his options and look for what’s best if football ends up as his main sport.

Ibieta is a prototypical drop back passer who Chango compares in part to Tanner Lee, the former Jesuit, Tulane and Nebraska starter who is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Change was the offensive coordinator at Jesuit when Lee starred there. “Justin is more of a threat with his legs though. He is not a dual threat, but he can definitely pull the ball down and hurt you.”

Change also thinks Ibieta’s decision on a college future will be based on potential relationships rather than dreams.

“He didn’t have designs or dreams. When he comes across a system and staff he likes and trusts, he’s liable to pull the trigger. He’s a relationship type guy,” Chango detailed. “The relationship with the staff is more important to him than the facilities or whether there are 90,000 people in the stands or 30,000. He just wants to go to a school where he’s treated fairly and has a chnace to be successful.”

One would be wise to think Ibieta will want to keep his mutli-sport options at the next level. “I think it would be crazy for a staff not to consider him at least a two-sport athlete,” said Chango.

And what does the Cajuns’ workhorse have to say on the matter? Justin has a clear understanding as to what he’s looking for in a school.

“I’d like a place that has strong academics, great coaching staff and solid community that supports,” Ibieta said. “I would like to play as soon as I can. Knowing I would have a chance to compete for a starting job early in my time would be attractive.”

Having shared his time between three sports at Country Day has been fun, but Ibieta understands that duplicating the feat at the next level would present some challenges.

“Having the opportunity to play two sports would interest me, but it’s not a deal breaker.”

Distance is also not a factor.

“I think wherever I go, my family will find a way to make it to see me play, so I’m not too concerned about going away from home,” Ibieta explained.

The Class of 2020 standout will continue his full schedule throughout the remaining spring and summer. He will play baseball on the Knights Travel baseball team coached by Jack Cressend and play summer basketball on Mike McGuire’s squad. In between, Justin will squeeze in time to partake in summer football camps.

However, don’t think Ibieta isn’t finding the time to put in work to improve behind center.

“He works hard on his technique and skills, but comes from a good gene pool (family),” Chango assessed. “It’s what God gave him. Some of it was God given, but he also has taken advantage of what he has.”

Recruiters in three sports will come from far and wide, trying to convince Justin Ibieta to make their campus his second home.

Like he always does, Ibieta will make the time for them.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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