Looking at the featured photograph of this article should remind you of the college battles between Indiana's Roy Hibbert and Portland's Greg Oden, two seven-foot giants who played for Georgetown and Ohio State earlier this decade.
Both were first-round picks in highly regarded draft classes and both have yet to reach their full potential. Yet while Hibbert was drafted 17th and Oden first overall, they now have the same task set before them: reviving a forgotten era of true centers.
These two men, aged 21 and 22 respectively, standing 7'0" and 7'2", will not have an easy road to travel.
After the glory days of the '90s, we have seen a true scarcity of dominant pivot men, as the skills and talents of Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon and David "The Admiral" Robinson have not been duplicated by modern players.
No offense intended to Dwight Howard, but a healthy Yao Ming is the closest thing we have seen to the two-way abilities of such past-time legends.
During his four year tenure at Georgetown, Hibbert was named to the 2007 All-Big East First Team in addition to leading his team to the Elite Eight of the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
Oden was the most hyped High School player since LeBron James, leading Ohio State to the NCAA National Championship Game and garnering All-American First Team honors in his lone season with the Buckeyes.
Unfortunately to this point they have not been able to replicate their successes in the NBA, but their age, size, and potential have given them a unique window of time in which they can develop and harness their talents.
Despite Oden being drafted a year earlier, injuries have meant that both players will enter the 2009-10 season as sophomores. Oden's rookie season saw him average 8.9 ppg and 7.9 rpg, while Hibbert averaged 7.1 ppg and 3.5 rpg in seven less minutes per game.
Perhaps Oden's injuries were part of fate placing these two talent-filled centers in the same rookie class, with the same destiny of reviving the class of centers.
Reportedly during the off-season both players have dedicated themselves completely to improving their conditioning, mobility, post-moves, and offensive repertoire. Oden himself has declared a new-found "commitment to improving," while all reports have Hibbert as a sleeper for the 2009-10 Most Improved Player of the Year Award.
If preseason is anything to go by, the work has been paying off.
Hibbert has averaged 13.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, and 3.6 bpg in just 24 minutes on the floor per game, while Oden has compiled 13.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg, and an improved 72 percent free throw shooting in just 22 minutes.
Both players are young, hungry, and passionate with the ability to dominate on both ends of the floor. The rest of the league better be cautious, because once the regular season starts we will be seeing what they can do given 35 minutes per night.
For the rest of the NBA, here's your disclaimer:
Tread lightly, because these sleeping giants are waking to dominate.
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