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July 17, 2007
HAVERFORD, Pa. ? If faced with the decision Georgetown's Roy Hibbert had to make regarding leaving early for the NBA, most college kids wouldn't be college kids anymore.
They surely wouldn't be here at the U.S. Pan-Am team tryouts, sweating through two-a-days for nothing but the glory of the red, white and blue. They would've taken the green that goes with being a first-round pick.
"People look at me dumbfounded, almost perplexed," the 7-foot-2 center said. "They ask me, 'What are you doing? Are you dumb? I would've gone and taken the money.' "
He wasn't talking of his 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. He chose the rarest of prisms with which to see his future - the long lens.
"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."
Hibbert combined with No. 5 overall pick Jeff Green to help Georgetown win the Big East and earn a trip to the Final Four. Hibbert would have been picked anywhere from sixth to late in the lottery in June's draft, according to league executives. His return invites a different level of examination for his senior season. There promises to be much more dissection of his weaknesses, as opposed to focusing on 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," Hibbert said. "Then I thought about it some more. 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. If he didn't have such a busy summer, which will almost certainly include the Pan-Am Games later this month in Brazil and August camps, he assuredly would've 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 Indiana's D.J. White has been the best player there. While John Thompson III's suped-up Princeton offense has gone a long way to develop Hibbert's complete game, most scouts at the Pan-Am trials found it useful to watch him anchored around the basket. That's 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 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."
Adrian Wojnarowski is the NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports.