HAVERFORD, Pa. – Roy Hibbert was surrounded by college kids who wouldn't have wasted a moment with the debate that consumed him for months. Stay in school, when you could've been a lottery pick? Sure, sure. They would've been nowhere near these USA Basketball Pan-Am Games tryouts, where sweating through two-a-days for nothing but the glory of the red, white and blue would've been a foolery in the face of a first-round NBA draft guarantee.
"People look at me dumbfounded, almost perplexed," Georgetown's 7-foot-2 center said. "They ask me, 'What are you doing? Are you dumb? I would've gone and took the money.' "
He wasn't talking of his Pan-Am trials teammates, as much as those who have come into contact with him since Hibbert passed on the draft to return for his senior year. For now, he's turned himself into a throwback four-year Georgetown player, honoring the tradition of Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning before him.
Here's the thing to remember, too: Long before he became a good basketball player, Hibbert was a good student. And so, he chose the rarest of prisms with which to see his future: the long lense.
"Yeah, it's OK to get drafted to make the quick money, but I'm looking for the long term, for maybe getting a second contract," he said. "I don't want to just play in the NBA. I want to have a career."
After coming out of nowhere in his junior season for the Hoyas, working with fifth overall pick Jeff Green to win Georgetown the Big East and a trip to the Final Four, Hibbert would've been selected anywhere from sixth to the late lottery in last month's draft, according to league executives. His return invites a different level of examination for his senior season, when there promises to be much more dissection of his weaknesses, as opposed to his uniqueness as an old-school, back-to-the-basket, shot-blocking center.
Yes, he'll get his game picked apart, which he's already combating with a sleeker body borne out of a dedication to diet and workout.
"After the Final Four, I said I wanted to go," he said. "Then I thought about it some more and because it was a big draft with a lot of big guys, I think the next draft will bring me a better opportunity to go higher. But if I don't go higher, I'll just keep working hard. I'm a guy who nobody even knew about coming out of high school. I've always had to prove myself."
What's more, Hibbert never needed to run away from school. He loves it. And that's an important reason why he'll be a rare four-year player in the lottery next June. A Government major, he has twice paid to hear presidential candidate Barack Obama speak at Washington, D.C., dinners. If Hibbert didn't have such a busy summer, which will include the Pan-Am Games later this month in Brazil and August camps, he would've assuredly been preparing for his senior year with a Beltway internship.
At the trials, most pro scouts agreed that he was the best pro prospect participating, even if most believed that Indiana's D.J. White has been the best player there. While John Thompson III's souped-up Princeton offense has gone a long way to develop Hibbert's complete game, most scouts at the Pan-Am workouts found it useful to watch him anchored around the basket, where he'll be hunkered in the NBA.
"He handles the ball on the perimeter a lot in college, so it's good see him in the post all the time," one NBA scout said. "He needs to get stronger, but he still scores most of the time (when) he gets the ball inside. He definitely rebounds pretty well, and he's got that great jump hook with his right hand and a nice touch. To see him play against a strong guy like (Memphis' Joey) Dorsey and totally overpower him was a pretty good sign."
For Hibbert, the tryouts were a reaffirmation of his pro possibilities, but executives and scouts found the weekend camp to be cluttered with promising prospects. After polling several league evaluators in attendance, here's a look at several intriguing prospects who made the Pan-Am trials cut to 14 players on the way to a 12-man roster, and thoughts of NBA personnel about them.
D.J. White, Indiana (6-foot-9, 251 pounds, junior) – "For the first time in a long time, he looks healthy with a bounce to him. I don't think what we had seen in the past couple years was the real him. He's running well, in shape, and hopefully the foot trouble is behind him. Up to this point, he's been a good college player, but if he stays healthy he'll be one of the best bigs in the country. I wish he would play above the rim and rebound above the rim, but hey, a lot of guys in our league don't do that."
Wayne Ellington, North Carolina (6-4, 195, sophomore) – "It's scary how good he can be. It seemed like he was trying to press a little too much in the trials. He put up a lot of shots, but he's as talented of a wing player as anyone. At his size you look at him a little like (ex-Carolina guard) Rashad McCants, but I think he can be much better than that."
Joey Dorsey, Memphis (6-9, 290, senior) – "I'm trying to figure out if he's going to be the next (Detroit Pistons forward) Jason Maxiell. Jason was better offensively in college, and he played harder, but Dorsey reminds you a lot of him. The thing that will worry some people around draft time next year is that he'll be only a few months away from his 25th birthday. You have to consider that in your mind when you're comparing him to a 19- or 20-year old. At that age, you have to believe that he's a lot closer to what he's ultimately going to be as a player."
Josh Carter, Texas A&M (6-7, 195, junior) – "It's easy to label him as a shooter, but he's a much more complete player than that. He's got great size for his position at two-guard. He's someone who exploded in the last part of this past season and everybody's got an eye on him."
Bryce Taylor, Oregon (6-5, 205, senior) – "To me, an efficient, effective player because you watch all of those guys who shot a lot and you remember their misses. When you think about Taylor, you remember his makes, because he doesn't just jack up threes. He gives a shot fake, or re-positions himself to shoot. He'll run the floor, make the good pass to the open cutter. There's just a great maturity to him."
Among those players cut, here are several who left good impressions:
Mario Chalmers, Kansas (6-1, 195, junior) – "He's got so much speed, so much talent that it doesn't bother you that he didn't play that well at the trials. You have to go by his bigger body of work, and the fact that he plays hard, gets coached in a great program and has two years left to prove himself."
Ahmad Nivins, St. Joseph's (6-9, 235, junior) – "He's an interesting player, because of how much he's improved since getting into college. He's really caught the eyes of everybody in the league. If he keeps getting better at the rate that he has, he has a chance to really elevate himself into a first-round guy."
Jerel McNeal, Marquette (6-3, 195, junior) – "Few play on- or off-the-ball defense in a team situation better than him. He comes up with steal after steal with those quick, active hands. He's got to be more consistent making shots, but because of what he does on the defensive end, he's a guy who can help you. Everyone talks about having a guard who can pick up 94 feet and how valuable that is, so you have to keep watching McNeal."
- Roy Hibbert