ROY HIBBERT isn'tembarrassed to describe his first weeks as a freshman at Georgetown. Threeyears ago the 7'2" top recruit arrived on campus at 290 pounds expecting toshowcase his skills in the fall's first pickup games but instead found himselfin a back room of McDonough Gym--learning to hula-hoop. "When I got here, Icould barely run up and down the court," says Hibbert. "So the trainerstarted teaching me stuff like hula-hooping, juggling and dance steps."
Watching the17-year-old struggle through those workouts was former Georgetown coach JohnThompson Jr., who christened Hibbert the Big Stiff. Current coach John ThompsonIII's first instinct was to redshirt Hibbert. But the Hoyas were short on bigmen, and Thompson recognized Hibbert's raw talent--particularly his ability topass, a skill crucial for playing in Georgetown's motion offense. "I wasn'tworried about him fitting into our system," says Thompson. "Someonewho's 7'2" and willing to learn? We can make the system fit him."
But the drillsweren't all fun and games. For an hour before each practice Hibbert shothundreds of one-foot hooks. Next came "hours upon hours of dribbling,"he says. Thompson even made him work the shot clock at Georgetown's summercamp--while bouncing the ball with his other hand. "I told him, 'You don'twant to dribble like a center, you want to ... dribble,'" saysThompson.
The unorthodoxtraining methods paid off, transforming the former project into a low-postpresence. Hibbert started 17 games as a freshman, averaging 15.8 minutes and5.1 points. As a sophomore last season he became the Hoyas' top rebounder (6.9per game) and shot blocker (1.6) and averaged 11.6 points. In March he surgedduring Georgetown's surprising run to the Sweet 16. Against No. 10 NorthernIowa and No. 1--seeded Ohio State, he netted a combined 37 points and grabbed23 boards.
Hibbert, whoorally committed to Georgetown after his sophomore year of high school, seemeddestined to become a Hoya. He grew up in Adelphi, Md., 10 miles from theGeorgetown campus, and played for former Hoyas guard Dwayne Bryant atGeorgetown Prep in Washington. Beginning when Hibbert was a sophomore, Bryantarranged 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 strongshowing in the NCAA tournament drew comparisons to those Georgetown greats, butthe Hoyas' 57--53 loss to eventual champion Florida in the Minneapolis Regionalsemis showed him he still had work to do. He had 10 points and seven reboundsin the game but was exhausted after chasing athletic Gators big men Joakim Noahand Al Horford. Three days later Hibbert was back at Georgetown, running athree-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 juniorJeff 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 NoMore--are convinced. In high school opposing fans called him Lurch and BigFreak, Hibbert recalls with a laugh. "But [a lot of] those guys came toGeorgetown. They're my biggest fans now."
POST MASTER Hibbert piled up boards (23) and blocks (seven) during Georgetown's Sweet 16 run.