Hoyas Tap In to Their Biggest Asset

By Mike Wise
Sunday, February 11, 2007

When you think Georgetown, you think big. Ewing. Mutombo. Mourning. Allen Iverson and Sleepy Floyd made you watch, but the big fellas made you remember. Authentic Georgetown is the senior, stay-and-graduate pivots -- and their papa bear coach who used to back up Bill Russell.

So it's refreshing that a program defined by its centers the last three decades sometimes recognizes the one, current big man calling for the ball inside, 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert.

It's also alarming when the Hoyas don't regularly feed Hibbert, who continued to round into tournament form yesterday in 22nd-ranked Georgetown's nice little upset of No. 11 Marquette at Verizon Center.

Using a buffet of baby hooks, dunks and power dribbles to get within inches of the basket, Hibbert scored an economical 23 points. He grabbed 11 rebounds. He blocked three shots and altered at least 10 more, and his fitness allowed him to play a career-high 35 of 40 minutes.

"Get it to the big fella," Patrick Ewing Sr. said at halftime after he had watched Hibbert fight for position on the blocks against a bunch of 6-7 Marquette players unable to stop the junior center.

"He must have done something his teammates didn't like in practice," John Duren mused.

The Hoyas finally got it. Hibbert and Jeff Green imposed their will on Marquette and refused to let a much smaller team invalidate their superior front line.

Hibbert, especially, is picking up his game. In Georgetown's last four victories, he has averaged 19.3 points and nine rebounds (and that includes an eight-point, three-rebound clunker at St. John's) and showed an aggressiveness belying his placid facial expressions.

Don't look now, but that gangly, seemingly uncoordinated youngster from two years ago has grown into one of the country's finest big men. And we're not just talking the college game.

The dearth of good American centers is evident at all levels of basketball today. Every 6-10 and taller kid with any skill or athleticism wants to cross up his defender on the perimeter, drop three-point rainbows and lead the break. In other words, they want to play small.

The reason NBA bottom-feeders are salivating over Ohio State freshman Greg Oden is that he is one of the first mean-mugging, take-no-prisoners big men expected to come out of college since, well, Shaquille O'Neal.

The decline is well documented, and most of it is about image -- specifically shoe commercials, playground peer pressure and those traveling junk salesmen on the AND 1 bus.

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