“He called me after his first workout to ask me that,” Ronnie said Friday. “To put it bluntly, Roy was awful. He couldn’t run. No, really, a basketball player on scholarship at a major Division I university could not run.
“They put him on the side with [Hoyas men’s basketball trainer] Lorry Michel to teach him. When I got him on a treadmill, I thought he was [messing] with me. I put the speed at 5.0. He couldn’t do it; he wasn’t coordinated enough.”
Eight years later, Ronnie pauses to contemplate an extreme makeover, the transformation of a doe-eyed, gawky freshman to one of the most complete big men in pro basketball.
“If you would have told any of us even in his freshman year that he would be the next NBA all-star from Georgetown, we would have laughed at you,” he said.
As the NBA community convenes in Orlando for All-Star Weekend, two stories have taken center court: Where is Dwight Howard going and where did Jeremy Lin come from?
But here’s another that requires genuine explanation: How in the world did Roy Hibbert, a guy who once had trouble successfully putting one foot in front of the other, end up here?
“It’s just a testament to hard work,” he said after midnight Thursday from Orlando by telephone. “Everybody is talking about Jeremy Lin. I feel guys like him, [Portland’s] Wesley Matthews, myself — guys that went to school for four years and put their time in, got their education and got their degrees — can make an impact in this league.
“You don’t have to be one-and-done and just be all potential.”
No, sometimes you just have to grow in ways that can’t be measured on a height chart.
See, when you’re 7 feet 2, no one thinks that. But that’s all Hibbert did: grow — mentally, emotionally, in the weight room, every year since he left high school. With height his only God-given advantage, he grew himself into an all-star.
He dropped a 30-point, 13-rebound performance on New Orleans earlier this week. Hibbert is averaging almost 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots per game. Since his rookie season, his numbers have almost doubled in scoring and tripled in rebounding and the Indiana Pacers are finally winning again.
In this immediate-gratification world, Hibbert might just be better evidence than Lin of what happens when patience and perseverance collides with opportunity.
“People need to realize that it takes time,” he said. “As a rookie, I wanted it all at once, and you can’t have it. You have to learn to play without fouling. You have to learn what you can do and what you can’t do. It’s a process. It’s something that for big guys, it takes a little longer than others, and it depends on your work ethic. My parents instilled that into me at a young age.”
Roy Hibbert Sr., and his wife, Paddy, still live in Bowie and catch as many of Roy’s games as they can. His father remembers a magazine saying his son could be an NBA player as far back as 1998, but by the time he heard all the uncomplimentary things about Roy in his first year at Georgetown — “Gangly, he can’t do anything,” Roy Sr. recalled — he had his doubts.