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Hibbert Is Happy To Land in Indiana

By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 27, 2008

There were a few nervous moments for Roy Hibbert as he watched the NBA draft last night, particularly when the Toronto Raptors were on the clock with the 17th pick. From all indications, that was when Commissioner David Stern was going to call the name of the Georgetown center.

So when that happened, and Hibbert was officially a part of the NBA, there was joy and also a little bit of relief. When he finally suits up, however, it will likely be in an Indiana Pacers uniform. Multiple media outlets reported on Wednesday night that the Pacers agreed to send forward Jermaine O'Neal to Toronto in return for guard T.J. Ford, center Rasho Nesterovic and the 17th pick.

"I'm happy," Hibbert said. "People said I was going to parachute, that I was going to go late in the draft. But I ended up with a good organization. . . . I think Indiana is a good fit for me. I mix well with the guys in the front office and mesh well with guys on the team."

Hibbert is the 11th Hoya to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft, and the second in two years. Former teammate Jeff Green was the fifth overall pick last year before being traded to Seattle, where he was named to the NBA all-rookie first team.

"It's an exciting day, without a doubt," his former coach, John Thompson III, said. "Who knows what would've happened last year; conceivably he went one, two, three, four spots [lower] than he would have last year. But then you have your degree, back-to-back Big East championships, and you go to an organization headed by Larry Bird. If there's anyone in basketball that understands that you can be a terrific player and not be a runner and jumper, it's Larry Bird."

Hibbert and his parents watched the draft at Thompson's house in Arlington, along with former teammate Patrick Ewing Jr., and John Thompson Jr., the Hall of Fame coach who famously gave the nickname "Big Stiff" to Hibbert when he was a somewhat awkward 7-foot-2 freshman.

He waited nearly 100 minutes before he heard his name called, as one other senior (Rider's Jason Thompson) and four other centers (Thompson, Stanford's Brook and Robin Lopez, Florida's Marreese Speights) were taken before him. He said the inbox on his cellphone filled almost immediately with congratulatory messages.

"Oh my god, we were so excited. So excited. Everybody was jumping up and clapping and hugging," Hibbert's mother, Paddy, said. "This is some sort of closure for all of us. He's got a new career in the NBA. There's a lot of anxiety."

Indeed, last night was a happy ending to a month of uncertainty for Hibbert and his parents. He spent much of the past three weeks on the road, traveling to workouts in Utah, Sacramento, Seattle, Indiana, Charlotte, Cleveland, Toronto and New Jersey, and selling himself -- both as a person and a player -- to potential employers. He kept himself amused by playing Super Mario games on his Nintendo DS, his one pre-draft splurge, and relaxed by listening to Coldplay, Natasha Bedingfield and Feist.

Along the way, Hibbert heard reporters and draft analysts question his decision to stay with the Hoyas for his senior season, and assert that he would have been a lottery pick had he stayed in the draft last year. He heard them criticize his athleticism and wonder if he could continue to improve at the same rate he did in college. One unnamed scout even told the Boston Globe, "Hibbert is going to need a parachute on draft day."

His mother compared this week to the stock market, with players' fortunes rising and falling, and worried about what might happen to her son. His father, Roy Sr., kept an eye on the fluctuations; every day, Roy Sr. checked the various online mock drafts and wrote down where they had his son going. The draft even invaded his sleep; Roy Sr. said last week that he dreamt that the Indiana Pacers took his son with the 11th overall pick. He was off by six spots.

But Hibbert himself never seemed overly anxious about the process. He was confident that he was going to end up in a situation where he could succeed, and he was prepared to work hard.

"That sense of confidence and comfort comes from knowing when he's ready," Thompson said. "In my perfect world, Roy would've gone number one, Patrick would've gone number two, Jon [Wallace] number three, and Tyler [Crawford] number four. But [Hibbert] has an understanding that he's prepared. . . . The draft is over in a couple of hours. Then it's all about, 'Am I ready to do this?' I think he's ready to do this."

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