While Roy Hibbert played at Georgetown, I announced for one of the Hoyas’ Big East foes, Villanova. So, I got to see Hibbert play multiple times. Usually, I’m pretty good at identifying talent. Obviously we can all tell who the superstars are and we all identify the guys who will clearly be looking for a non-basketball job once college ends. It’s those bubble players that you try to figure out.
Jimmy Butler is a good example. A competent player on a balanced Marquette squad that caught my eye. He just seemed to have the “it” factor. I felt Butler “got it.” Judging by his postseason performance for the Bulls this year, he looks like he is on a path to a long, successful career. What I saw in Butler though, I clearly missed in Hibbert.
My scouting report on Hibbert back then was simple. In fact, it consisted of one word: tall. Not a negative or a positive, but just what I saw. He was a big guy. We all know you can’t teach height, so Hibbert’s size, I thought, would likely bode well for him into the NBA. I wasn’t too sure beyond that. I just didn’t see much.
In one game against Villanova, Hibbert’s Hoyas won, but he failed to register a single point. In another game he pitched in with 13, and again Georgetown declawed the Wildcats. Nothing stuck with me though about Roy Hibbert, other than the fact that he had to look down at every other player.
NBA teams must have agreed with my assessment. Hibbert wasn’t selected until Toronto grabbed him with the 17th pick in the 2008 draft. After being shipped quickly to Indiana, Hibbert’s pro career began.
Soon, fans and journalists wondered about his long term effect. I just figured he was about where he should be. A tall guy who will stick around for awhile because of his height. The Pacers, to their credit saw much more. Indiana opened the purse strings and gave Hibbert a huge contract this past offseason.
It’s already paying off.
Hibbert is getting better at his overall game, he’s still tall, and most importantly, he is using his head. Often big guys rely on physicality and their size to beat an opponent. Hibbert is showing how smart he is on the floor. A 7’2″ post presence is scary enough. A 7’2″ post presence with intelligence is horrifying.
Down low, Hibbert is one of the top defenders in the association. Meantime, his offense has heated up, just in time to take on the Heat. He had 19 points in a razor tight Game 1 loss and then exploded for 29 in a Game 2 win to tie the series with Miami.
I could see Roy Hibbert’s size in college but I couldn’t gauge his intelligence. Now he is using his brain to put himself in the right position on a regular basis. Once there, his dimensions allow him to win most physical battles.
Portland tried to snatch Hibbert away from Indiana this past offseason. The Pacers had to match a competing contract offer from the Blazers to keep him. The deal was lambasted by most. Kudos to Indiana for recognizing an improving player who also has the mental make-up to do special things.
photo credit: USA Today Sports