Beale Street Baskets: Pan-Am Pals

By David Scott - December 21, 2007


MEMPHIS -- It will not be the big man matchup which unfolded almost a quarter of a century ago when Patrick Ewing's Georgetown Hoyas faced Keith Lee's Memphis Tigers in the second round of the 1983 NCAA Tournament. But very few big men -- and none in today's game -- could possibly live up to that epic duel where Lee went for 28 points and 15 rebounds in the 66-57 win over Ewing, who had 24 and nine.

Still, there is intrigue and import in the Internet Age's version of Georgetown (8-0) vs. Memphis (9-0) as All-American 7-foot-2 Hoya Roy Hibbert matches up with the reigning Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, Tiger Joey Dorsey for Saturday's battle of Top 5 teams at the FedEx Forum.

"It's going to be great to see Roy," said Baltimore-native Dorsey, who got to know the Hoya center when both played for Team USA in this past summer's Pan American Games in Brazil. "We're texting each other all the time. I'm watching his games, he's watching mine. We just clicked. We became really close because we had so much time to spend together. "

The two had bonded over Martin DVDs during their downtime in Brazil and have kept in touch ever since. They will once again be close - in proximity - on the court Saturday, but the friendship, according to Dorsey, will be put on hold.

"Before the game, we can go out, go to the movies, go play video games or whatever," said Dorsey. "But when it's game time, no. We're not friends when the game starts."

Upon commencement of said game, there will also be an unfriendly environment for the Hoyas, as a sold-out crowd will bear witness to the city's first-ever match-up of Top 5 teams.

"This is a huge game if we win it," said Dorsey. "If we don't, it's December 22 and it's still early.

"I like it when the whole arena's against us," Hibbert said earlier this week. "When our back's up against the wall, we play our best."

Said Dorsey: "We're still trying to find where guys are at and after this game right here, we'll see who can step up and who's going to shy away."

Timidity is not a problem for the hulking, massive Dorsey who is averaging eight points and nine rebounds for the Tigers, but it has been a perceived weakness for Hibbert (13 ppg and and 7 rpg). Dorsey doesn't buy into the "Hibbert is soft" whispers that have dogged the Adelphi, Md., product but he does know Hibbert must have heard them.

"The biggest thing I asked him when we met was why did he come back and not go to the NBA," said Dorsey. "He said it was to get stronger. He was telling me during the Pan Am trials that I was one of the strongest guys he ever played against. We actually might work out together after the season is over."

Before that, though, the seniors will face off in a game that even other college coaches have been anticipating since the summer. "[Team USA] Coach [Jay] Wright and Coach [Mark] Gottfried were saying they couldn't wait to see us battle it out over the Christmas holiday, even back then."

And yes, Dorsey was trying to pick up some things that will help him as he does battle with Hibbert. "He does that running sky hook he's got going," said Dorsey. "I've been trying to get that from him. He's probably going to try and use it over me tomorrow."

Hibbert is adopting the Hoya company line, having said to the Associated Press on Wednesday, "We go into every game with blinders on our head, not worrying about rankings or anything like that," Hibbert said. "Memphis is just another team to us. I'm just going to go out and play the best I can and make sure the team wins. I'm not looking to do anything out of the ordinary.

Dorsey, on the other hand, is hoping for something out of the ordinary. "I haven't had a break out game yet," said Dorsey is almost fully recovered from an early season shoulder injury. "I'm still waiting on one. I'm trying to get there. I haven't got a 15 rebound game yet."

Did he say fifteen? Isn't that what Keith Lee had against Ewing in 1983?

Maybe this will be an epic match-up after all.

HANG TIME EXTRA:
After dropping its first two games in the Pan Am Games, Team USA bounced back to win three straight and claim a fifth-place finish. Dorsey averaged 3.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in five games. After playing only 3.0 minutes in first two contests, Dorsey averaged 19.3 minutes in the final three games and increased his output to 4.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg. Hibbert averaged 9.2 points and 5.8 boards in five contests (18.4 minutes per game) for the Games.

Posted by David Scott at 06:11 PM on December 21, 2007
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