- David Auguste, ESPN NFL
- 0 Shares
They entered the DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) gymnasium with no previous connection to the hundreds of names adorning the walls.
Those of former NBA players Sidney Lowe, Danny Ferry and Adrian
Dantley and current NBA swingman Keith Bogans stood out. Here were their predecessors, athletes who had helped bring DeMatha considerable notoriety over the years.
After taking it all in, Naji Hibbert and Josh Selby stepped onto the court ready to embrace all of the history and prestige that come with donning the Stags' uniform. Two Baltimore boys had found a new home.
"It was definitely a great feeling putting on that jersey," says Hibbert.
"They have banners for the championships they have won," adds Selby. "I just took it as I have to put one up there too."
The Tennessee-bound Selby, a 6-foot-3, 188-pound combo guard, is rated the nation's No. 17 junior in the ESPNU Super 60, while Hibbert, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound wing and Texas A&M recruit, is the No. 61 senior in the ESPNU 100. When the star duo transferred to DeMatha in the summer of 2007, it was a reunion of sorts for the Baltimore-bred ballers.
The two are longtime friends and former AAU teammates, and their
familiarity on the court has been a welcome addition for DeMatha. Last year the duo combined for nearly 30 points a contest, with Hibbert leading the team at 15.7 and Selby chipping in 13.8 points a game. Their efforts helped DeMatha to a 20-10 mark and a spot in the WCAC semifinals.
"Talent-wise, they are as good as it gets," DeMatha coach Mike Jones says. "Potentially, they could play basketball for a long time."
Separately, Hibbert and Selby are potent offensive forces who've had no shortage of individual success. But together, they have breathed new life into an already-explosive Stags attack.
"I love playing with Naji," says Selby. "We have known each other since we were 9 or 10. I know what he is going to do before he does it."
That goes back to the days when the two played for the Chick Webb AAU team. After that, Hibbert and Selby found themselves heading down different paths to begin their high school careers. Hibbert made his way onto a loaded St. Frances Academy team his freshman year. A year later, Selby started at John Carroll.
"I never even heard of DeMatha till one of my coaches told me," says Hibbert. "I never knew anything out of
After his freshman season, Hibbert began to inquire about his chances of transferring to DeMatha to better
prepare himself to play at the next level. While he made his intentions known to Jones, both parties decided to wait until after Hibbert's sophomore year.
"It was a mutual decision even though we wanted him here," says Jones. "If he still wanted to come a year later, it would have been fine."
Finally, in the summer of 2007, Hibbert's path to the Stags was cleared and he officially transferred. Unbeknownst to Hibbert, Selby was preparing a similar move.
"Me and my mom thought if I got away from Baltimore, I'd have better competition," says Selby. "Also, (we wanted) to get away from Baltimore 'cause nowadays, a lot of
people are getting killed."
With the paperwork complete, the two made their debut with DeMatha at the Nike Pro City Summer League at Georgetown University and immediately proved they belonged.
Hibbert displayed his versatility throughout the
tourney, highlighted by a 23-point performance in the finals against Gonzaga. Selby also shined as he began a string of clutch performances by burying a game-winning jumper as time expired to secure the title for the Stags.
He has since continued the trend of late-game heroics, evidenced by last summer's Rock Summer League championship game. He scored the team's final 11 points in the last two-plus minutes of the game to give DeMatha the victory, leading his coach to dub him "the bulldog of the last four minutes."
"Naji gets us going and Josh finishes," says Jones.
Soon after their arrival at DeMatha, opponents became acquainted with Selby's explosive dunks and Hibbert's propensity to knock down clutch 3's. Already-packed stands became a little more cramped, and the opposition now had even more to worry about when taking on the Stags.
"They built a good chemistry together," says Gonzaga head coach Steve Turner. "They are two kids who have been playing with and against each other for years."
Hibbert, the more reserved of the two, is a silent assassin, armed with a golden touch from behind the arc. Able to play up to four positions, he is the Swiss Army knife for DeMatha. While subdued in his on-court demeanor, he has been known to induce raucous ovations from the crowd with his relentless drives and forceful finishes.
"Naji is very unselfish," says Jones. "He could score over 20 points per game if he wanted to. He is very much a team player."
Selby also has the ability to fill up the stat sheet. Before coming to DeMatha, he gained notoriety as a slick ball-handler who often reduced defenders to awestruck observers. His jumper was a liability at times, but he was able to mask his perimeter deficiencies by attacking the cup.
"When Josh first came we were like, 'He's Top 10,'" says sophomore guard Quinn Cook of Selby's elite status in the Class of 2010. "In practice, everyone tried to go hard at him."
This season, Selby and Hibbert helped guide DeMatha to a 16-3 start and a Top 20 ranking in the ESPN RISE FAB 50. Off the court the duo remains as tight as ever. Mornings are spent in Hibbert's Honda Accord during the commute to school. After practice, you can find the two engaged in a hotly contested game of NBA 2K9, Madden 09 or Call of Duty 4.
"We probably don't go 48 hours without seeing each other," Hibbert says.
The Baltimore boys are glad to be home.
David Auguste covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.
Since transferring two years ago, Baltimore natives and elite recruits Josh Selby and Naji Hibbert have settled right in at hoops powerhouse DeMatha