Georgetown's Hibbert among handful of college stars who bypassed NBA for now Print
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Thursday, 01 November 2007 06:02
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 WASHINGTON (AP) -Ask Roy Hibbert why the heck he's still a student at Georgetown instead of banking millions of some NBA team's dollars, and the 7-foot-2 senior sounds a bit like the politician he thinks about becoming one day.
He speaks earnestly about taking responsibility for his decision.
He looks you in the eye while talking about wanting to ``finish off my four-year plan.''
He mentions the importance of getting a good education.
Then again, it also took Hibbert less than 10 seconds into an interview with The Associated Press this week to drop a reference to having ``a shot at a title.''
By which he meant, of course, an NCAA championship, a prize that has eluded the Hoyas for 23 years, although Hibbert and Jeff Green - a classmate who did opt for the NBA - led the team to last season's Final Four before losing to Ohio State.
``It's been a long time since we won the tournament,'' Hibbert said, sitting not far from a case protecting the 1984 trophy at McDonough Arena. ``It would mean a lot.''
He's one of a handful of college basketball's Big Men on Campus who are back in school instead of heading to the pros, players such as North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, Marquette's Dominic James, Tennessee's Chris Lofton and Virginia's Sean Singletary.
``Timing's everything. I didn't want to rush my dream,'' said James, a junior. ``I've been working on it my entire life, so there was no need for me to just rush it.''
For Hibbert and the others, the exact reasons for staying on campus vary, though they generally include some combination of sticking around in hopes of tournament success, hoping to improve draft status and, well, figuring that a career's a career but college only lasts so long.
``I'm having so much fun my senior year. The atmosphere around campus - I'll miss that,'' Hibbert said. ``When you get to the NBA, it's a lot of business, contracts, negotiating, and everything like that. I'm just living out my adolescent years, my last few years of freedom, before I've got to go into the business side of basketball.''
As with Hibbert, a loss to Ohio State in last season's NCAA tournament played a role in Lofton's choice to remain in college. Tennessee led by 20 points in the first half before losing to the Buckeyes in the round of 16.
``Having that bad taste in your mouth at the end of the game ... makes you realize how close you were,'' said Lofton, a shooting guard who averaged 20.8 points as a junior.
Also like Hibbert, he wanted more seasoning before heading to the NBA.
``I don't think I was ready for that next level yet,'' Lofton said. ``I feel like my game wasn't ready for that. I came back to college to try to get better.''
Hibbert has managed to get better and better ever since arriving at Georgetown as a scrawny teenager trying to adjust to his height. A mere 6-2 entering sixth grade, he recalled meeting 7-2 Dikembe Mutombo, the former Georgetown star, back then and thinking at the time, ``I want to be as tall as this guy.''
Well, as though wishing could make it so, Hibbert rose to 6-6 by the end of sixth grade, reached 6-10 as a high school freshman and topped out at 7-2 two years later.
``When you first see Roy, you think, 'Wow. He's big.' That's clearly your first impression,'' Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. ``And much like he's grown and developed off the court, it's the same progression on the court. He's gone from someone who, for the most part, just was big and uncomfortable with his largeness to ... comfortable and confident.''
He also is the Big East preseason player of the year, a tag built on the expectation that his monumental advances will continue.
Consider: Hibbert went from averaging 5.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and a .469 field goal percentage as a freshman, to 11.6, 6.9, 1.6 and .590 as a sophomore, to 12.9, 6.9, 2.4 and .671 as a junior.
And as Thompson notes, there's been a parallel arc for Hibbert as a person.
``He comes in as an unsure-of-himself kid, and now he's grown up,'' Thompson said. ``He's gone through the natural maturation process that most college kids go through - get here a little uneasy, not sure about things, not the most confident in the world. Now he's grown into a sense of who he is.''
That's evident in the way Hibbert carries himself these days, teammates say.
``I've never heard Roy talk so much since I got here. But he's vocal, telling everybody what to do and where to be,'' junior guard Jesse Sapp said. ``We need the Big Fella. There's not too many Big Fellas in the country who are going to be able to stop him.''
A government major, Hibbert looks forward to tossing his mortarboard in the air at graduation next spring, not the type of sentiment one hears every day from a big-time college athlete. Particularly in basketball, where top players often leave after a year or two.
Hibbert, though, thinks he could put his degree to good use down the road.
He's been keeping tabs on the 2008 presidential campaign and went to hear candidate Barack Obama speak twice.
``After basketball, maybe you might see me running for governor or mayor, something like that,'' Hibbert said, eyes and smile as wide as can be. ``I won't go so far as to say 'president,' because that's kind of cliche. But you never know what will happen.''
His time at Georgetown also has afforded him the chance to earn a B.A. in basketball from such luminaries as Mutombo, Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning. The trio of past Hoyas centers stops by the ol' stomping grounds from time to time; Ewing's son, Patrick Jr., is Hibbert's teammate.
``Dikembe would say, 'Be long. Clog up the lane. Block shots. Get rebounds. Be a defensive threat.' Big Pat would show me some moves. Alonzo would tell me, 'Shoot 300 hooks a day,''' Hibbert said. ``They each told me what they're good at. So I try to be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as I can.''
Something others notice.
``That guy's really something,'' said Villanova's Jay Wright, who has to deal with Hibbert in Big East competition and coached him this summer on the U.S. team at the Pan Am Games. ``Besides the obvious talent, he's really smart. ... A lot of times, you see big guys who play the game because they're big. He plays the game because he loves the game.''
Yet another explanation for why Hibbert is a senior rather than a rookie right now.
And although he is well aware of the risks associated with staying in school, Hibbert is not daunted by them.
``I could have the worst season of my life or Georgetown may not do well this year. I could go not where I thought I'd go in the draft. I could get hurt,'' he said, rapping his sizable hand on a nearby wood table. ``I'll take the responsibility for what my decision was after the season's done. And if I don't get drafted - if I get hurt or whatever - I'm going to keep working. Because that's what I do.''
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AP Basketball Writer Jim O'Connell in New York, AP Sports Writer Colin Fly in Milwaukee, Associated Press Writer Beth Rucker in Knoxville, Tenn., and AP freelancer Daimon Eklund in Washington contributed to this report.
 

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