Middleton, Hibbert highlight national success

As early signing day for basketball draws to a close, A&M has locked in two stars from miles away. Naji Hibbert and Khris Middleton prove that the Aggies' reach extends far beyond the borders of Texas.

One question on Aggie fans' mind when Mark Turgeon became head coach at Texas A&M was if he would have the draw of recruits that the former staff had. Today marks a landmark victory for Turgeon and crew as he has not only satisfied critics by pulling in a wonderful class, but he has done so while scouring the nation for the best, and drawing them for miles away to come to Texas A&M. Two players in particular, guard Naji Hibbert and small forward Khris Middleton, showcase this new national mindset.

Naji, a 6'6" guard from nationally ranked Dematha Catholic, said he'd never even heard about Texas A&M until this summer, but it didn't take long to get him pumped up for Aggieland. "When [coach Turgeon] came and talked to me, I didn't know about A&M, but I came down and loved it down there, and I'm really excited I get to play there," Hibbert said. "I can't wait."

"He'll be a great addition to his team," his coach, Mike Jones said. "He's going to be a great fit at Texas A&M. Last year he averaged 16 points per game, 7 rebounds per game, 4 assists and 3 steals. He also shot over 40% from the three. His absolute best quality is how versatile he is. He can defend, rebound, and shoot outside or inside, he plays anywhere from a 1 to a 4 for us, so he can deal with any position. He's also trying to work on his ball handling skills, since he knows he'll be helping A&M in that regard soon, and he has improved a lot in that area."

The one thing Naji will need to do to contribute early is put some weight on his 6'6", 185 pound frame. Hibbert is getting a jump start on his rigorous conditioning waiting at Texas A&M, and he says it has already paid dividends. "I'm still trying to get my weight up, and add some muscle," Hibbert said. "The Big 12 is a different beast, they have some big guys down there, but I'm already up to 192 [pounds], and I'm trying to get to 200 by this year so I can come in ready to play."

Along with Hibbert, Khris Middleton hails from the east coast and attends Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina. Averaging over 22 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game, he is highly ranked by ESPN who recently named him the #1 shooting SF in the nation. Again, Middleton was won over by Turgeon from afar and is looking forward to playing in maroon and white.

"He's very very excited," his coach, John Pearson said. "He's taken a couple of visits down there now, and he's hung out with the team, and really formed a bond with the players and coaches. He feels like it is home."

"Khris is a real prize for any school," Pearson continued. "He plays so smart on the court; in fact I would say that is his best ability. His IQ level is very high, he knows where to be and where others are going to be and what they are going to do, and his whole game is better because of it. Obviously, [noted by the ESPN #1 ranking] his shooting is phenomenal, but it is the way he plays that truly sets him apart."

Khris will need to improve on his tenacity on the defensive side of the ball to complete himself as a player, but Coach Pearson said he has already been working hard to get better on that side of the ball. "I've noticed a big change in his defense," he said. "He is much more aggressive and must continue to be. He is a leader on the team though, and expects the most from his teammates and himself, so his work ethic is amazing and will help him get where he needs to be." Aggie fans will have to wait a year for these stars to be on campus, but it looks like A&M has another lights out 3 guard waiting in the wings, and, remarkably, it is getting these players from around the nation.

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