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October 24, 2007

Hoyas' hopes get boost from Hibbert's return

MORE: Hibbert, Hoyas the class of the Big East | Big East notes: Extra games change things

Rivals.com has selected the top 25 storylines for the 2007-08 college basketball season and will be releasing articles daily, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1. The No. 12 storyline centers on the decision of Georgetown big man Roy Hibbert to return for his senior season.

What did Roy Hibbert's decision to stay for his senior season do for Georgetown? It took the Hoyas from borderline top 25 team to a team that's poised to return to the Final Four and maybe even go a little further.

Hibbert averaged 12.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game while shooting a Big East-leading 67.1 percent from the floor. But it was his play down the stretch that has coach John Thompson III eager to see what the big guy can do in 2007-08. Hibbert had four double-doubles in five NCAA Tournament games, averaging 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in the postseason.

He was a lock to be a first-round NBA pick, and he and teammate Jeff Green - the Big East MVP - entered their names in the draft. Green stayed in and was picked fifth overall; Hibbert pulled out, presumably because he believes one more season will make him as high a pick as Green, maybe higher.

"I looked at being picked between eight and 16 in the draft, but after discussions with my family and Coach Thompson, I've decided to withdraw my name and return for my senior year," Hibbert said at a news conference announcing his decision. "I think I can continue to develop and improve, and while I'm happy for Jeff and will miss him, I'm excited about next year's team."

There is plenty of reason for excitement despite the loss of Green (14.3 points per game, along with 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists). The other four starters Hibbert, guards Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp and forward DaJuan Summers are back. Add to them Rivals.com's No. 23-ranked recruiting class, and you have the makings of a title contender.

"Last year we came from the Sweet 16 and everyone thought we could be pretty good," Hibbert said at Georgetown's preseason media day. "This year everyone is expecting it, so we have to show it. We just have to play hard, not have too many mishaps and keep working."

Hibbert certainly has kept working since he arrived on campus. He has taken himself from raw, gangly, slow freshman to smart, polished, 7-foot-2, 278-pound senior.

Roy Hibbert was at his best last March when Georgetown reached the Final Four. Here's a look at how he fared in the NCAA Tournament:
N. Carolina6-101-113116
Ohio State9-131-41961
"To me, honestly, he's gotten a lot better," Sapp said. "He's moving up and down the court quicker. I've never seen him run that quick, and I've seen him since his senior year in high school. He's working on his game every day."

That's what good players do: They never stop working to make themselves better. Hibbert is a smart player who knows what to do with the ball. He has a variety of post moves, and his shot has developed to the point where he's comfortable shooting from 12-15 feet.

Hibbert is underrated as a passer, and he rarely turns the ball over, especially when compared to other college post men. His defense is solid, too. He gets good position on the block, and his long arms make him a threat to block shots and create havoc against his man and in help situations.

Now he's poised to join the long line of great Hoyas big men, names such as Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning. And when Hibbert departs, the next great big man is waiting in the wings in 2008 No. 1 overall prospect Greg Monroe. Monroe, a 6-foot-10 Louisiana native, committed to Georgetown on Oct. 15.

"I said to myself, 'Do I really want to go in the draft and sit on the bench?' " Hibbert said. "My heart was here. I feel like I have unfinished business here."

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.

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