Double Teamed: The forgotten Hoyas

April 18, 2012

For four years, Jason Clark and Henry Sims have had a very different Georgetown experience than their classmates—one that featured national television appearances, chartered flights, and the scrutiny of thousands of fanatics. Now that their final Hoya basketball season is over, however, they’ve got a lot in common with many of their fellow seniors—they’re just trying to find jobs.

The two players spent this past weekend in Portsmouth, Va., trying to bolster their resumes and impress potential employers. They were two of the 64 participants in the 60th Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, the annual meat market for senior college basketball players looking for one last shot to impress professional scouts.

In the past, Portsmouth was a prestigious tournament, showcasing marquee matchups between top draft picks and even some future hall-of-famers. But the relevance of the tournament has waned in recent years, for obvious reasons—very few seniors are sure-fire NBA prospects anymore. Meanwhile, the small minority of seniors that are assured a spot on an NBA roster see no need to risk their draft positions on a couple of glorified exhibitions.

This year’s list of attendees featured a lot of names that even die-hard college fans wouldn’t recognize. Teamed up with guys like Greg Mangano (Yale) and Bryant Voiles (Augustana), Sims and Clark look like superstars. Sadly, it’s probably one of the last times the two Hoyas will stand out so clearly from their basketball peers.

In last year’s NBA draft, just three Portsmouth alumni were selected. Most of the success stories coming out of the tournament are players like Landry Fields and J.J. Barea—competent role-players in the NBA, but not much more. The biggest names to come out of Portsmouth recently are Wes Matthews and Jeremy Lin, but neither was actually drafted after playing in the tournament. This year’s hopeful draftees can point to those two as proof that their NBA dreams are never dead, but they also show that the Portsmouth Invitational can hardly guarantee a ticket to an NBA roster.

Sims may actually be one of the lucky few who do ride a great weekend in Portsmouth to a spot in the draft. The late-blooming big man was named to the All-Tournament Team after posting averages of 13.7 points, nine rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in three games. More importantly, Sims impressed with his official measurements, verifying that he has the body to play center in the NBA. Sims measured out at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. That was good enough to earn him a spot in scouting site DraftExpress’s post-Portsmouth mock draft—as the 60th and final pick.

Clark played pretty well too, scoring 11 points per game on 60 percent shooting while filling out the rest of the stat sheet with averages of 5.3 rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Unfortunately, the most important statistic for Clark was his height: 6-foot-1. Sims will get a close look from the NBA because height is a scarce commodity, but undersized, fundamentally-sound combo guards are everywhere.

In a turn of fate that seems ironic only if you don’t know how professional basketball works, the best and most consistent Georgetown player in the draft is the least likely to be picked (early entrant Hollis Thompson is far from a sure thing, but he’s at least getting some second round buzz). It’s not the end of the world for Clark, who will likely join an impressive international Hoya diaspora.

Last year’s seniors—Austin Freeman (Italy), Chris Wright (Turkey), and Julian Vaughn (Belgium)—are the latest in a long line of former Georgetown stars who have found a way to make a living playing basketball overseas. The list stretches all the way back to John Thompson Jr. recruits like Kevin Braswell, who despite never cracking a regular-season NBA roster has still put together a decade-long pro career around the world (he currently plays in New Zealand).

Obviously, none of these players grew up hoping to play for the likes of Fulgor Libertas Forlí. The NBA is the brass ring that every college player reaches for, and like Clark and Sims, every one of those former Hoyas did everything he could to attract an NBA suitor before heading overseas.

In all likelihood, at least one of this year’s seniors will be joining them soon. It’ll surely be a disappointment, but if past Hoyas are any example, they’ll keep playing hard in hopes of one day cracking the NBA. As many of their classmates are learning, you can’t always get your dream job right out of college.

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