For Georgetown, A Split Decision

Led by Roy Hibbert, from left, Coach John Thompson III and Jeff Green, Georgetown won 72 games the past three seasons.
Led by Roy Hibbert, from left, Coach John Thompson III and Jeff Green, Georgetown won 72 games the past three seasons. (By James A. Parcell For The Washington Post)
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 24, 2007

When Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert first walked into McDonough Arena in the fall of 2004, they were Washington area basketball stars who had committed to a Georgetown program that had become an afterthought in the Big East, let alone in the county.

Yesterday afternoon, the two juniors walked into the lobby of that same arena as national stars and future professional players. They were greeted by five television cameras and more than a dozen reporters and photographers, all waiting to hear whether the two players who had come to symbolize the resurgent Hoyas were going to return to Georgetown for one final season.

After three seasons, 72 wins, a Big East championship and a Final Four appearance, Green decided to keep his name in the NBA draft, and Hibbert chose to withdraw his name and return to the Hoyas.

"I think they both had thought through the situation," said Coach John Thompson III, who was not surprised that the players made their decisions well in advance of the June 18 deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft. "As Roy indicated, I think he had a feel all along for what he wanted to do. I think Jeff went through the process and got more comfortable with the thought of not being here. . . .

"There are a lot of times when you coach young men and you know that if they have the chance to go, they're going to go. But both of these guys love Georgetown. Their best friends are their teammates. That made it a decision."

For Green, it came down to feeling that he is ready for the NBA. The versatile 6-foot-9 forward is projected to be a lottery pick after a breakout season in which he led the Hoyas in scoring (14.3 points per game) and was second in both rebounds (6.4) and assists (3.2). He was named the Big East player of the year, as well as the most outstanding player of the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament's East Region, and made three game-winning shots.

In what turned out to be his final game as a Hoya, Green scored nine points on just five shot attempts in Georgetown's national semifinal loss to Ohio State. He thought about that game and that performance when he was weighing his options -- "I didn't like the way we went out," he said -- but ultimately decided it wasn't enough to bring him back.

"Just sitting down with my family and Coach, I feel like we came to a decision that staying in the draft would be the best thing for me after the season that our team had and I had," said Green, who was an All-Met at Northwestern High School. "I'm in a good position to go pretty high in this draft. It's just a matter of how hard I want to work."

For Hibbert, it came down to having "unfinished business" at Georgetown. The 7-2 center has made tremendous improvements in college, but said there are plenty of things on which he needs to work. He often has talked about his desire to be remembered as one of the great Georgetown big men; last week, he was watching old tapes of Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo and wondering if he could one day have his picture on the wall inside the McDonough lobby, like those two players do.

This year's draft is considered to be one of the deepest in recent years, and is particularly rich in talented big men. Hibbert was projected to be a lottery pick, but could vault himself toward the top of the 2008 draft with another strong year. He was a unanimous pick for first-team all-Big East, and set or tied career highs in scoring (12.9 points), field goal percentage (.671), rebounds (6.9) and blocked shots (2.4).

"I thought about it and I said to myself: 'Do I really want to go in the draft and sit on the bench? Or do I want to get better and hopefully my stock will rise next year,' " said Hibbert, who was a standout at Georgetown Prep. "My heart was here."

Green hasn't hired an agent yet, though he said that he'll start that process soon. Once he hires an agent, he will be ineligible to return to Georgetown. He will attend the pre-draft camp in Orlando June 4-8, but only to undergo a physical. He already has several private workouts with NBA teams lined up for June.

Guard Jonathan Wallace and swingman Tyler Crawford will have to find a new roommate.

"I'll always be their roommate," Green said of his fellow juniors. "I'll be there for them. I'm never going to forget those guys. They've been a big part of my life."

Hoyas Note : Thompson hired David Cox and Kenya Hunter as assistant coaches, replacing Kevin Broadus and Sydney Johnson, who left for head coaching positions at Binghamton and Princeton, respectively.

Cox is a District native who played for St. John's College High School and William & Mary. He spent seven seasons as an assistant with the D.C. Assault AAU program before becoming director of operations at Pittsburgh. Hunter attended Wakefield High and Duquesne, and spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Xavier.

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