The soon-to-be Maryland star stopped in Tennessee to visit former teammate and fellow Aussie Jessie Rennie, and the stupid light was back on. Something was wrong.
“It had no oil in it,” said her exasperated father, Adrian. “So you know it was only a vital fluid that was lacking. [Later] she said: ‘You know what? The light went off!’ ”
Leigh-Anne Bibby, Chloe’s mom, added: “You can’t tell that redhead anything. She makes up her mind about something, and she’ll do it. And she has.”
That attitude is what led a young Australian netball prospect to cross the ocean to continue a budding basketball career in Mississippi before making that drive to Maryland to start for a Terrapins team with a historic achievement in its sights. The Terps lead the nation in scoring at 92.5 points per game and are on pace to break the school record.
Bibby was 15 when she informed her parents she was moving to Melbourne. The family lived on a farm in Warracknabeal and had endured a grueling schedule as her basketball talent began to blossom. As a kid, she played netball, which was Leigh-Anne’s specialty, but she was introduced to basketball around fifth grade when she met a few players in Canberra. She came home and told her parents she wanted to be like the girls she met. Goodbye, netball. She had a new focus.
The basketball opportunities in Warracknabeal, with its population of about 2,400, were limited at best. So the family would travel to face better competition, and by the time she was 14, Chloe was about 6 feet tall and working with trainer Owen Hughan, whom she calls her basketball Yoda. She began playing for the Horsham Hornets amateur team about 45 minutes away, and that evolved into games in Melbourne four hours away. So the Bibbys would pick Chloe up from school Friday, drive to Melbourne and stay for a weekend of games and practice.
The travel got old after a year, and Chloe declared she was moving to Melbourne. She attended boarding school and played in semipro leagues before committing to Mississippi State.
“She was just that type of person, even at that age,” Adrian said. “If that’s what she thinks, we should probably just let this happen, support her and just see where it goes. We didn’t know. So we just thought, ‘We’ll just see where it goes.’ ”
Where it went was across the Pacific Ocean to a small college town in Mississippi called Starkville. Bibby played 88 games and was a freshman on the Bulldogs team that lost to Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament title game. But the next step of the journey presented itself again.
The coronavirus pandemic cut the season short, and coach Vic Schaefer left for Texas. Bibby decided to enter the transfer portal ahead of her senior year, and Maryland’s Brenda Frese was the first to make contact. Other programs reached out, but video teleconferences with Frese and the coaching staff were enough for Bibby to sign sight unseen. She had never been to College Park or D.C., but those kinds of details have never kept Bibby from doing what she wanted.
The relationship with Frese and the program was a match from the beginning, and the Terps needed a veteran with leadership skills who could get buckets after they lost five of their top six scorers.
“She brings an energy that lights up the room when she walks in every single day,” Frese said. “Obviously, her championship mentality. Her veteran leadership. She’s okay with having hard conversations, calling people out when necessary.
“From a basketball end, she’s brought great toughness. Has really been able to spread the floor with her ability to shoot the three. … The last piece for her is just the defensive part of the game. That, I think, is the final piece for her and to make us an even better team.”
Bibby has averaged 14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds while making 26 three-pointers in 12 games. The rebounds and threes are the second-highest marks on the team. Those are impressive accomplishments for someone who seems to struggle to stay upright on those size 14 feet.
“She falls a lot in practice,” teammate Mimi Collins said with a laugh. “I mean, everybody sees that because we post it on social media a lot. … She’s just a clumsy person. She just falls. That’s my best buddy. … She’s literally like a big rainbow with the fattest sunshine ever. She’s just a great person, great personality. She’s always there for you.”
Said Bibby: “I’m coordinated but so clumsy, too. I don’t understand. My feet are huge, and so I trip over them all the time. I am always falling over, and it’s the slowest fall ever. It’s so embarrassing. … I mean, it makes for a good laugh.”
All signs point to a WNBA career as a player with the ability to shoot from the outside and still bang down low. But a deep run in the NCAA tournament is the immediate priority, and Bibby is enjoying the ride. A wide, toothy grin is never far away, and it comes with that distinctly Australian combination of wit and self-deprecation. That’s almost a requirement for the farm girl who spent parts of the summer back on her parents’ 1,200 acres tending to miles of fencing and chasing sheep.
She may be a pro in the making, but Bibby remains the same girl who ignores a car warning light and can trip over her own feet at any moment.
“I’m not afraid of change. I never have been,” she said. “I’ve moved around quite a bit. And, honestly, change excites me. So when the opportunity came, I was like, you know, ‘Well, I know I got one chance.’
“I just like being around people, making people laugh. That’s just the way I am.”