Georgetown hired John Thompson III last spring in hopes of turning around a team coming off its worst losing season since 1973. With Thompson at the helm, Georgetown improved from a 4-12 Big East record in 2004 to an 8-8 conference record and 19-13 record overall, advancing to the NIT quarterfinals. Led by Third Team All-Big East senior forward Brandon Bowman and Big East Co-Rookie of the Year sophomore forward Jeff Green, Georgetown hopes to continue in the right direction in the face of an even more competitive re-structured Big East conference.
“You won’t necessarily be better because you are a year older,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “But hopefully we’ve learned lessons during the course of that stretch.”
Georgetown returns 12 players from last year, who now have experience together as a unit. Georgetown was chosen to finish in sixth place in the Big East Conference, which now features 16 teams, in preseason polls. The addition of Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida to the Big East definitely makes for a more competitive atmosphere.
“This conference is unbelievable in terms of depth and quality of teams,” Thompson said. “We can improve, but with the depth of the conference, we have to improve more for us to take the next step to where we want to be.”
A key component to the Hoya’s improvement will be 6’9” senior Brandon Bowman. Bowman led the team in scoring, blocks and steals, and he came in second in rebounding. A Preseason All-Big East Honorable Mention, Bowman, who was the one of the focal points in Georgetown’s motion-based offense, almost forfeited his final year at the hilltop to enter the NBA draft.
“He made the correct choice for (himself) and for our program. He has a lot of room to improve,” Thompson said. “For us to have success, he is going to have to have success.”
Though he flirted with the idea of making the jump to the NBA, Bowman also feels like he made the right decision to stay at Georgetown one more year.
“This is Georgetown.” Bowman said. “You only do this once. You have to make sure you do it right.”
Emerging star sophomore forward Jeff Green shined last year for the Hoyas. As the team’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder, Green cleaned up on postseason awards last year, getting a unanimous selection to the Big East All-Rookie Team, an All-Big East Honorable Mention and Co-Big East Rookie of the Year. He was named National Freshman of the Year by Basketball Times.
“I said this about Jeff all last year,” Thompson said, “He’s got the ability to do a lot of things on the basketball court.”
Green, and the rest of this year’s sophomore class, will have to shoulder much of the responsibility this year and in years to come. Just as Green came to the forefront with major contributions to Georgetown’s team last year, fellow sophomore center Roy Hibbert seems to be the player to watch this year.
“Roy is moving in the right direction,” Thompson said. “He is significantly better than when we both walked in the door last year.”
Last year Hibbert averaged 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game and came up second in blocks, recording 40 for the year. During the off-season Hibbert dedicated himself to improving his game.
“I’ve been lifting and working out, working with coaches, making sure I get in the gym every day.” Hibbert said. “On off days I make sure I’m in the gym lifting or putting some shots up.”
His hard work in the weight room trimmed fat and added solid muscle mass to his 7’2” frame. He has also worked on his low post game, making sure he finishes strong and using his body to control the paint. His improvement has been so considerable his coach and teammates all took notice.
“Roy has been working hard. Really pushing himself. Hitting the weights, getting stronger.” Green said. “Roy has probably made the best off-season.”
If Hibbert can emerge as a dominant big man along with Jeff Green and Brandon Bowman, Georgetown could have one of the most formidable front courts in the Big East.
“Roy is going to help us a lot. He’s been playing well. He’s going to be a big surprise to a lot of people,” senior guard Ashanti Cook said. “Roy, he can ball.”
This year’s first-year class features some top prospects, including Mark Egerson and Jessie Sapp, as well as Patrick Ewing Jr., son of the Hoya great. Georgetown got a glimpse of the talents of these recruits in last year’s Capital Classic, where Egerson and Sapp both had strong showings.
Egerson, a 6’6” swingman was one of the top prospects out of Delaware. He made First Team All-State his senior year and was voted Basketball State Player of the Year.
“He has a lot of value and abilities,” Thompson said. “Because of his size and skill level he is not pigeonholed into a spot, into a position.”
Jessie Sapp is a 6’3” guard from National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Md. With his toughness and ability to drive to the hole Sapp will add a surge of energy to Georgetown’s backcourt.
“Jessie is a competitor, tough. He can do a lot of things on the court,” Thompson said. “He can make shots and get to the basket.”
Then there’s Patrick Ewing, Jr. The 6’8” former Hoosier left Indiana to play for his father’s alma mater. Though NCAA transfer rules force him to sit out this season, he’s doing his best to make the team better through contributions in practice, and he is preparing himself until he can finally play.
“He knows what we are trying to do,” Green said of Ewing Jr. “He knows his job is to push us and make us better for the season so when he comes in it’s the same deal.”
Though last year’s 19-13 record is an improvement on 2004’s dismal season, Georgetown still has not appeared in the NCAA tournament since 2001. With Bowman withdrawing from the NBA draft to don the Hoya blue and grey for one more year, along with an improved sophomore class and a promising group of first years, Georgetown could see this tournament drought coming to an end.