7 Feet 2 and Still Growing
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Roy Hibbert's first lesson in what it takes to be a Georgetown big man came nearly six years ago, when he was a skinny 13-year-old who took the bus into the city to work out at McDonough Arena. There, he would square off against Michael Sweetney, who became a Hoyas standout forward and lottery pick. Not only did Sweetney -- who was shorter, heavier and four years older -- dominate the 6-foot-10 Hibbert, but he told him all about it.
"He'd say he was going to shut me down," said Hibbert, who turned 19 earlier this month. "He used to push me around. I said that's not going to happen any more when I get to college."
Hibbert, now a 7-foot-2 sophomore for Georgetown, has worked to fulfill that promise. No Hoyas player worked as hard during the offseason, and no player has made as big a leap as Hibbert, who transformed himself from an often overwhelmed and ineffective freshman into a confident, consistent low-post threat. His scoring average has jumped nearly nine points to a team-high 13.9 points per game and he's grabbing 6.8 rebounds per game, second on the team.
His potential, coupled with the progress he has already made, leads Georgetown Coach John Thompson III to say "one day, Roy is going to be one of the best players in the world."
But just as quickly, when the praise seems to be racing ahead, he cautions, "Let's not make the big fella out to be something that he's not.
"He's got a long way to go," said Thompson, whose Hoyas (6-2) play Colgate tonight in the Sun Bowl Tournament in El Paso. "That's relative to what we need and what he can be. I think he's moving in the right direction. Does he have some tools? Some God-given ability? Yes. Does he have the aptitude and commitment? Yes. The stars still need to align properly, but they're falling into place."
Consider: Hibbert played four years of varsity basketball at Georgetown Prep for Coach Dwayne Bryant, a former Hoyas guard who told stories about former Georgetown teammates Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. Hibbert is on the same team as transfer Patrick Ewing Jr., who shows videos of his father, one of the truly great centers. Hibbert plays for Thompson, an excellent teacher who, like his Hall of Fame father, takes pride in developing big men.
Perhaps the most important thing, though, is Hibbert's drive to succeed. "Roy wants to be good," Thompson said. "Roy wants to be in the class of the great centers."
Hibbert was just a gangly 12-year-old -- albeit one who stood 6-8 -- when he first met Bryant. Even then, Bryant could tell that he had the potential to be special.
"He had pretty decent skills, but his body was so awkward," said Bryant, who played at Georgetown from 1986 to 1990. "He had great hands and that soft touch, but obviously his footwork wasn't what it needed to be. That's what we really tried to work on with him."
Bryant hired a special trainer who used jump rope drills to help Hibbert and his former high school teammates -- including 6-10 Davis Nwankwo (Vanderbilt) and 6-9 Aris Williams (USF) -- improve their footwork and conditioning. But for every step forward, there always seemed to be a setback. Hibbert broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot on the first day of practice as a sophomore, then re-broke it the following summer. The two injuries slowed his development but did not affect his desire.
"I always tell Roy, 'You've got to be patient,' " said Bryant, who encouraged Hibbert to work out against the stronger and older players at Georgetown University. "You're young and big; it's going to take time. Things come easier for the little guys."