Orlando: Pacer University
By: Alex Raskin Last Updated: 7/8/09 12:48 AM ET | 131 times read
Adjust font size:In 2007 Roy Hibbert's Georgetown Hoyas beat Tyler Hansbrough's North Carolina Tar Heels in the Elite Eight.
Now Hansbrough is beating Hibbert down the floor as his teammate on the Pacers' summer league team in Orlando.
"Sometimes (Hansbrough is) running the break and I tell him, 'Let me get down there first so I can post up strong,' and a lot of big guys can't handle that so they usually call a foul so I can go to the line," Hibbert told HOOPSWORLD after racking up 24 points and eight rebounds against the Oklahoma City Thunder's summer squad. "We're just trying to experiment now to see what works when we get to the season."
And "experiment" seems like an excellent term for a squad of intelligent, big-name college players like Hibbert and Hansbrough.
After a draft that saw an American coming out of Rome (Brandon Jennings), a Spanish prodigy at point guard (Ricky Rubio) and 7-3 center from Tanzania (Hasheem Thabeet), the Pacers are a reminder that there is still a need for veteran college players in the NBA.
Danny Granger was a star at New Mexico (who nearly attended Yale) before being taken by the Pacers with the 17th pick in 2005. Mike Dunleavy and Josh McRoberts are each Dukies while Jarrett Jack (Georgia Tech), Brandon Rush (Kansas), T.J. Ford (Texas), Troy Murphy (Notre Dame) and Marquis Daniels (Auburn) all played under the spotlight at the highest amateur level. Daniels, McRoberts and Jack could be playing elsewhere next season, but General Manager David Morway and President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird clearly value the most traditional talent pool.
It's a far cry from the 2002-2003 Pacers that featured three guys (Jermaine O'Neal, Al Harrington, and Jonathan Bender) that never stepped onto an NCAA court.
One of the benefits of mixing premier college talent is that there is a lot of familiarity and respect for each other's games.
"When (Hansbrough) got drafted I called him and said I was excited to play with him," Hibbert said. "I told him we have a lot of work to do and it starts in the summer league."
You don't have to tell Hansbrough twice. The former All-American has scored 40 points in two summer league games to go with nine rebounds.
"Obviously, he has one thing on his mind: to play hard," said Hibbert. "I hear him out there being like, 'Let's get this!' And obviously, a rookie coming in, doing that, is going to help the team."
While Hansbrough was winning a National Championship in his final season at UNC, Hibbert was going through his ups and downs in Indiana. Considered a project by many analysts, Hibbert played in only 25% of his team's minutes but still managed to score over seven points per game as a rookie.
Hansbrough's presence is a huge boon to Hibbert during the summer league. Last season, Hibbert was often the center of the defense's attention—a far cry from his reality in the NBA.
But now, with Hansbrough on board, Hibbert can use the summer to further his understanding of how to compliment other players.
"Last year, I was the main post presence, but now coach is calling plays for him and that eases me up and lets me read the defense and see where I can help him out and vice versa," he said.
Most importantly, playing with better talent gives Hibbert a better sense of life in the NBA.
"I think if you have two guys that can score in the post, it really eases things up," Hibbert noted. "It puts pressure on the defense.
"(Hansbrough and I have been) meshing really well," he continued. "I know last year (during the summer league), trying to go to the offensive boards, two or three people went to box me out. But now, I got him down there and they're going to have a hard time boxing both of us out."
Clearly, if a player has made it this far, they've been near the top wherever they've played. But if you can teach someone what it's like to be a third or fourth option, then you've prepared them for the NBA.
The 2009-2010 Pacers are considered a young team, but with a couple more semesters of summer league, they'll graduate from college to NBA stars.