Georgetown's Roy Hibbert and Memphis's Joey Dorsey didn't need long to become good friends this summer, as they practiced and played together for the USA Basketball team that finished fifth at the Pan Am Games.
After all, as the 7-foot-2 Hibbert said, "Big guys got to look out for each other."
So Hibbert and Dorsey bonded over their shared love of the television show "Martin," and Hibbert even attempted to teach the 6-9 Dorsey how to shoot a running jump hook.
"But then I told my [Georgetown] teammates about that," said Hibbert, "and they said, 'Don't show him that!' They didn't want him to learn any of our stuff."
Sensible advice, considering that Hibbert's fifth-ranked Hoyas face Dorsey's second-ranked Tigers here on Saturday in one of the marquee nonconference games of the college basketball season. And at the center of the contest will be the matchup between the two friends: Hibbert, a preseason all-American, and Dorsey, the reigning Conference USA defensive player of the year.
"I think you can be intimidated by this kid [Hibbert] unless you know him," Memphis Coach John Calipari said. "He can intimidate you with his size. At least Joey knows the speed, quickness and athleticism Hibbert has since he played against him."
On the surface, the friendship seems odd: Dorsey is chatty and prone to say and do outlandish things, while Hibbert is more measured and thoughtful. When the United States played Argentina in the Pan Am Games, Dorsey encouraged Hibbert to be extra aggressive and dominate. Hibbert did just that and even attempted a scream after one emphatic dunk. Dorsey laughs at the memory, because "he didn't scream that loud. It was so funny."
"I got to learn some screaming from him," Hibbert said. "He's a loud guy that likes to talk. I'm usually the quiet guy that likes to sit back. We're two different personalities, but I think we mesh well."
The difference in personalities was never so evident as it was during last season's NCAA tournament, as each player prepared to face Ohio State's Greg Oden, the future No. 1 overall NBA draft pick.
In the days leading up to the national semifinal, Hibbert praised Oden's abilities, and expressed admiration at the way he was able to lead the Buckeyes to the Final Four as a freshman. In Georgetown's 67-60 loss, Hibbert was terrific, posting 19 points and six rebounds after weathering early foul trouble. (Oden had 13 points and nine rebounds.) A week earlier, prior to the South Region final, Dorsey famously described Oden as overrated, proclaimed that he would be Goliath to Oden's David, "the little man," and predicted he would have 15 points and 20 rebounds against the Buckeyes. Dorsey didn't take a shot and grabbed just three rebounds in Memphis's 92-76 loss. (Oden had 17 points and nine rebounds.)
"He just says stuff," Calipari said.
But Dorsey doesn't always follow through, which is one reason Calipari, who loves the charismatic and charming Dorsey, is often so frustrated with him. Dorsey claims his goal is to play in the NBA, and then switch to the NFL (he hasn't played football since high school in Baltimore). He says he is trying to pattern his game after Ben Wallace (he even switched his jersey number to 3 this season) and that he wants to be the Ray Lewis of the Tigers: "I'm so aggressive, and I got that rage on defense," he said.
Responded Calipari: "Here's the issue: Ben Wallace and Ray Lewis are who they are because they play on every possession. . . . There's a mentality that goes along with it: I play every possession to dominate. I'm not out here just to play. Do you know how hard that is? . . . Well, Joey doesn't get that yet. But if that light ever goes off in his head consistently, every day, every practice -- wow."
Dorsey has a tendency to get into foul trouble, and Calipari said he can tell what kind of game Dorsey will have -- dominant or not -- within the first five or six minutes of play. There's no question Dorsey is a ferocious rebounder (9.3 per game) and shot blocker (2.9 per game). He is shooting 82 percent from the field (23 of 28), because he gets most of his attempts off of putbacks and dunks. A local billboard has a picture of him dunking alongside the slogan, "That's MISTER Dorsey to you."
"He's an unbelievable presence," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "He's one of those guys where you're looking and peeking to see where he is because of his presence."
Hibbert is certainly aware of that, after battling Dorsey during USA Basketball practices. He says Dorsey, who is a rock-solid 265 pounds, is perhaps the strongest college player he has ever faced, and after the season, he plans on having Dorsey help him out in the weight room. Hibbert can bench press 235 pounds; Dorsey says his best is 325.
Dorsey, meantime, marvels at Hibbert's "good hands" and soft shooting touch, particularly for a player his size. Dorsey is desperate to master the aforementioned jump hook -- "Oh my god, I need that," he said -- and he could also use some pointers at the foul line, where Hibbert is a 67.5 percent shooter. Said Dorsey, a career 42.8 percent free throw shooter, "I wish I could have that touch he got on the free throw line."
Hibbert has a picture of himself and Dorsey, along with Indiana's D.J. White and Oregon's Maarty Leunen, posing in front of Rio's famous Christ the Redeemer statue stored on his camera. He and Dorsey communicate regularly, either over the phone or via instant messaging; shortly after Memphis's 79-69 win at Cincinnati on Wednesday, Dorsey texted Hibbert, complaining about the physical way the Bearcats played him.
As Dorsey left practice Thursday afternoon, he asked a reporter if the Hoyas had arrived in Memphis, because he wanted to take Hibbert out on the town. Alas, "Coach doesn't let us out of the hotel," Hibbert said Friday. "Vernon [Macklin] and I watched 'Superbad' last night."
So the two friends will have to wait until Saturday to meet. Hibbert, who is averaging a team-high 12.8 points, predicts their friendship will help make for a good game, because "that level of care means that we're going to compete really hard."
As for Dorsey's forecast?
"I'm out of the prediction business," he said with a laugh. "I just want him to play well and me to play well."