One of the joys of college basketball, at least for fans, is watching players grow up. Many times, that evolution is startling, making it all the more memorable. Remember Henry Sims from last season? Of course you do.
But there are certain times when that maturing occurs right under our noses. Halfway through this year’s Big East campaign, Nate Lubick’s transformation into the Hoyas’ best big man and vocal leader serves as the latest example.
Much maligned during his sophomore year for a seeming regression, the junior changed his body and mentality over the summer. Listed at 235 pounds, Lubick estimated that he had lost close to 10 pounds over the summer while gaining strength, adding that he felt more mobile.
Aside from that, though, it seems to be an increased role that has allowed Lubick to shine this season. He has always utilized his preternatural passing ability but in years past, it has been overshadowed by emerging starters like Sims.
His numbers still do not pop out—7.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game—but that’s more a reflection of Georgetown’s balanced offense than anything else. It’s where Lubick thrives, doing all the little things a team like Georgetown desperately needs.
“He’s all about the team, he’s a grinder, he adds great value in so many ways at both ends of the floor,” St. John’s Head Coach Steve Lavin said of Lubick.
Of course, there was good reason to be impressed with Lubick last Saturday, as the junior posted his best statistical game as a Hoya (16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) in a blowout win over Lavin’s Red Storm.
“The screening, the capable passing, cleaning up the boards for garbage points and there’s timeliness to the ways he adds value,” Lavin added. “It seems like at the critical stretch of the game he’ll have a hand in helping Georgetown move forward when they most need it.”
To that end, statistics do not really matter when assessing Lubick’s game. Nor do they matter to Lubick. “I am a player that will just do anything and everything to win,” he said.
This mentality was most evident in the Hoyas’ thrilling win over Louisville a couple of weeks ago. The most poignant moment came after the game, with John Thompson Jr. Typically, the elder Thompson does not greet the team as they leave the court for the locker room. This effort necessitated an exception.
Going through the group of players, Thompson Jr. offered a good game and some remarks to the players. Except for Aaron Bowen and Lubick.
Thompson Jr. reserved genuine hugs for the two players and their effort. Certainly, Bowen’s emergence after sitting patiently on the bench for two seasons warranted such a reaction.
On the surface, such a reaction for Lubick seems a bit farfetched. After all, he only put up 6 points and 4 rebounds, an output that in actuality was one of his poorer statistical performances of the season.
Thompson Jr. has seen it all, though. He is not the most conventional with his methodology. One of the most iconic moments of his tenure as Georgetown’s coach came after Fred Brown threw a pass away in the waning seconds of the 1982 NCAA Championship Game. The turnover lost the game for the Hoyas and crowned Michael Jordan and North Carolina champions.
But Thompson didn’t chew into his player. Instead he embraced him and, according to Brown, whispered, “Don’t worry about it. You won more games than you lost.”
Thompson Jr. recognizes overall effort. He saw the grit Lubick laid on the floor that afternoon. He saw the poise the Hoyas played with while withstanding a furious rally from the Cardinals, starting first and foremost with Lubick.
“Game recognize game,” the old basketball adage goes. Thompson Jr. saw that two of those rebounds came in the final minutes of a tight game, including a key tip-in with four minutes left.
“When we need something done, he gets a rebound, makes an assist, gets a basket,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III, said.
As with Sims last season, Lubick has been thrust into that leadership role out of necessity. But his steady contribution and confidence have been there all season, and have been crucial for the Hoyas. For Nate Lubick, statistics don’t matter all that much. He is fine with the relative anonymity, as long as the Hoyas keep winning.