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."
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
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
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,"
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."