On John Thompson Jr.’s 73rd birthday, former Georgetown star center Roy Hibbert announced Tuesday he would be contributing $1 million toward the construction of the on-campus facility bearing the name of the legendary retired Hoyas coach.
Hibbert’s gift to help fund the John Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletics Center comes the week after substantial donations from other players representing different eras of Georgetown basketball. NBA Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing is providing $3.3 million jointly with longtime sports agent David Falk, and 2007 Big East player of the year Jeff Green donated $1 million.
“It’s important for me to give back as much as possible,” Hibbert said in a phone interview. “I actually gave [Thompson Jr.] a call, and then we talked for a little bit today, wished him happy birthday. He was a big part of my development at school. He always said what was on his mind. He was out pushing me to be a better player. Obviously he’s a legend.”
The university is scheduled to break ground on the athletics center on Sept. 12. The four-story, 144,000-square-foot building comes with a $62 million price tag and will stand next to McDonough Gym. The state-of-the-art center is to include practice courts and offices for men’s and women’s basketball coaches as well as meeting facilities for varsity programs.
In 1984, Thompson became the first African American coach to win a national title during the program’s golden age in which the Hoyas made three Final Four appearances in four seasons. In 27 years at Georgetown, Thompson won the most games in school history (596) and was named Big East coach of the year three times.
Thompson’s eldest son, John Thompson III, has been the coach of the Hoyas since 2004 and remains close with Hibbert, who was the No. 17 overall pick of the Toronto Raptors in the 2008 draft. The Raptors subsequently traded Hibbert’s rights to the Indiana Pacers.
This past season Thompson spoke in person with Hibbert before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Washington Wizards. The two-time All-Star, mired in a scoring slump, responded with 28 points in an 86-82 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Hibbert, who played high school basketball at Georgetown Prep, and Green (Northwestern High School) were featured players when Georgetown last advanced to the Final Four in 2007. Hibbert initially declared for the 2007 draft but did not sign with an agent, permitting him to come back for his senior season after deciding to delay turning pro.
In addition to upgrading Georgetown’s athletics infrastructure, the Thompson center also could have a major impact on recruiting. The Hoyas currently practice, conduct meetings and play an occasional nonconference game at McDonough Gym, which opened in 1951 and has a capacity of 2,500. Georgetown plays all of its Big East home games at Verizon Center.
“I think it’s deeper than just recruiting,” Thompson III said. “Now does it help recruiting when you’re going to have a big, shiny building with all the bells and whistles? Absolutely, but just as important is we will soon have an environment and setting that’s best for teaching, coaching, working with the players that are here.”