Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert has made remarkable progress in the 3 1/2 years of NBA play after Larry Bird took him with the number 17 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft. The big fella has gone from project-hoping-to-contribute to a reserve center on the Eastern Conference All-Star team ready to play in Sunday night's NBA All-Star game.
Hibbert has never stopped working to make a difference for the Pacers as both a strong post presence and a fan-favorite willing to spearhead Area 55 and any other marketing opportunities the team throws at him. Mike Wells looks at all of the effort Hibbert has put in since joining the Pacers making physical improvements while changing his nutritional lifestyle all aimed at improving his results on the court.
But all of this is nothing compared to where Hibbert started this journey as a gangly teenager at Georgetown in Washington D.C. Mike Wise checked in with Hoyas coach John Thompson III who took over Georgetown's program but wasn't sure Hibbert would be worth the effort at first glance wondering what his brother Ronnie, who recruited Hibbert, had seen in big Roy.
"He called me after his first workout to ask me that," Ronnie said Friday. "To put it bluntly, Roy was awful. He couldn't run. No, really, a basketball player on scholarship at a major Division I university could not run.
"They put him on the side with [Hoyas men's basketball trainer] Lorry Michel to teach him. When I got him on a treadmill, I thought he was [messing] with me. I put the speed at 5.0. He couldn't do it; he wasn't coordinated enough."
Hibbert is far from a gazelle on the court but he doesn't need to be. Hibbert is happy to prove to NBA observers that four-year college players are not finished products when they leave college and has done so with his improved game each season.
The good new is that Hibbert still isn't a finished product. He continues to seek out opportunities to learn as he did this past summer in striking of a relationship with mentor Tim Duncan.
So while he may be blessed with size, Hibbert has earned every word of praise he now receives through countless hours of hard work and dedication to make himself into an NBA-caliber player for the Pacers. An All-Star player.