It wasn't long ago that Texas A&M basketball simply wanted good players as the program was considered one of the worst in any D-1 BCS conference. Then Billy Gillispie came to College Station and resurrected the downtrodden program, and the Aggies vowed to land the best players in the state of Texas. Now in Coach Mark Turgeon's second season at the helm of a program that has been to three straight NCAA Tournaments, Texas A&M is now able to recruit not only the best players in Texas, but also the best players in the country.
Take the example of Naji Hibbert, a national Top 100 guard from Maryland, who committed to the Aggies earlier this year and was on-campus this past weekend for his official visit. Hibbert stars for one of the most prestigious high school programs in the country, DeMatha Catholic, and he could have gone almost anywhere in the country, but he chose the Aggies.
"It's just a great place and they play the up-tempo basketball I was looking for," Hibbert said. "The coaches have a great reputation for developing players and winning. They have a great base of players already there and the program is set to do big things. It's a perfect fit for me."
The 6-foot-5 guard prospect is known for his slashing style and his ability to make big shots from the perimeter. He's also known as a fiery leader and someone who plays with a great amount of intensity and will do anything to win. Asked what he wanted to improve in the coming year in preparation for collegiate ball, his answer was not surprising.
"I want to get physically strong, but really I want to get mentally stronger," Hibbert said. "All of these players are good when you get to that level. The players that succeed are the ones that are mentally tougher and more focused at getting the job done. I feel that's my advantage now with high school players, and I need to carry that over to college and step it up even more."
While Hibbert had been down to College Station for unofficial visits, this past weekend was his first opportunity to take in a football game and see the campus at its peak activity. So what did a native from Baltimore think of the Aggie and Texas culture?
"It's definitely a different scene. Everybody talks different, but people there are kind and friendly," Hibbert said. "The football game was great. I thought we'd beat Tech. The atmosphere is ridiculous and having 85,000 fans in attendance is something you don't see often. It was crazy."
The night before, the basketball team had an event of its own, as Maroon Madness festivities took place at Kyle Field to kick off the 2008-2009 season. Hibbert was equally impressed with the support of the basketball team.
"The Midnight Madness at A&M was like no other. It was the best one I've ever been to," Hibbert said. "I can't wait until next year when I'm on that big screen and that big crowd roars at you."
Earlier in the day, Hibbert took in Texas A&M's first team practice of 2008 along with his parents who attended the visit with him. While most of the weekend was hanging out and having fun with the team, practice was all about business.
"The highlight was watching practice. The team was so focused and working hard. Josh Carter and Bryan Davis are great veteran leaders out there, and everybody fed off their energy and leadership," Hibbert said. "What impressed me the most about the whole weekend was the team's work ethic and commitment to success."
Hibbert plans to make it official when he signs his letter of intent during the November early signing period. He feels he's coming into a great situation both personally and from a basketball standpoint and he's looking forward to arriving in College Station to begin his collegiate career in early June.
"I had a great time just hanging out with the team. They treated me like I was a teammate already and my parents are comfortable with the environment at A&M," Hibbert said. "Plus, Josh Carter will be graduating and I'll have a chance to compete for his spot. That's all you can ask is to be able to compete for a starting job."
Hibbert Enjoys A&M Visit
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