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Julia Morrill
November 20, 2006
Seven-footer Roy Hibbert has transformed himself from a project into a powerhouse in the pivot
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November 20, 2006

Georgetown's Next Giant

Seven-footer Roy Hibbert has transformed himself from a project into a powerhouse in the pivot

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ROY HIBBERT isn't embarrassed to describe his first weeks as a freshman at Georgetown. Three years ago the 7'2" top recruit arrived on campus at 290 pounds expecting to showcase his skills in the fall's first pickup games but instead found himself in a back room of McDonough Gym--learning to hula-hoop. "When I got here, I could barely run up and down the court," says Hibbert. "So the trainer started teaching me stuff like hula-hooping, juggling and dance steps."

Watching the 17-year-old struggle through those workouts was former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr., who christened Hibbert the Big Stiff. Current coach John Thompson III's first instinct was to redshirt Hibbert. But the Hoyas were short on big men, and Thompson recognized Hibbert's raw talent--particularly his ability to pass, a skill crucial for playing in Georgetown's motion offense. "I wasn't worried about him fitting into our system," says Thompson. "Someone who's 7'2" and willing to learn? We can make the system fit him."

But the drills weren't all fun and games. For an hour before each practice Hibbert shot hundreds of one-foot hooks. Next came "hours upon hours of dribbling," he says. Thompson even made him work the shot clock at Georgetown's summer camp--while bouncing the ball with his other hand. "I told him, 'You don't want to dribble like a center, you want to ... dribble,'" says Thompson.

The unorthodox training methods paid off, transforming the former project into a low-post presence. Hibbert started 17 games as a freshman, averaging 15.8 minutes and 5.1 points. As a sophomore last season he became the Hoyas' top rebounder (6.9 per game) and shot blocker (1.6) and averaged 11.6 points. In March he surged during Georgetown's surprising run to the Sweet 16. Against No. 10 Northern Iowa and No. 1--seeded Ohio State, he netted a combined 37 points and grabbed 23 boards.

Hibbert, who orally committed to Georgetown after his sophomore year of high school, seemed destined to become a Hoya. He grew up in Adelphi, Md., 10 miles from the Georgetown campus, and played for former Hoyas guard Dwayne Bryant at Georgetown Prep in Washington. Beginning when Hibbert was a sophomore, Bryant arranged for him to take part in invitation-only workouts at the university, where he was schooled by renowned former Hoyas big men like Mike Sweetney, Merlin Wilson and Alonzo Mourning. "I loved the family atmosphere," says Hibbert.

Hibbert's strong showing in the NCAA tournament drew comparisons to those Georgetown greats, but the Hoyas' 57--53 loss to eventual champion Florida in the Minneapolis Regional semis showed him he still had work to do. He had 10 points and seven rebounds in the game but was exhausted after chasing athletic Gators big men Joakim Noah and Al Horford. Three days later Hibbert was back at Georgetown, running a three-mile loop around campus. He spent the summer working on his conditioning. The former Big Stiff is now a muscular 270 pounds, and he and fellow junior Jeff Green, a 6'8" forward, form one of the top front lines in the nation. Even Hibbert's critics--including Big John, who later tagged him Stiff No More--are convinced. In high school opposing fans called him Lurch and Big Freak, Hibbert recalls with a laugh. "But [a lot of] those guys came to Georgetown. They're my biggest fans now."