This isn’t going to be your average Hoya season. Georgetown basketball usually features imposing big men, and more recently, a lanky swingman. But this year, it’s all about Georgetown’s guards, senior Markel Starks and sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The Hoyas have produced dominant backcourts in the past, but this year’s edition is especially exceptional.
Oak Hill alumnus Smith-Rivera, the head of last year’s freshman class, broke out early in the year with a 19-point showing against Duquesne in the season’s first full game. After junior forward Greg Whittington was ruled academically ineligible at the beginning of Big East play, Smith-Rivera started playing significant minutes, posting double digit scoring figures 12 times. Against DePaul, Smith-Rivera scored 33 points, the most by a Hoya since 2009.
Now, with a year of experience under his belt, Smith-Rivera will be a catalyst for the Hoya offense. “[Smith-Rivera] can shoot, he’s a scorer, guy can really shoot,” Starks said, “I mean, he’s a scorer, he can pick his spots, there’s not a place on the floor that he cannot shoot, and I think he and I will work well together.” After dropping weight in the offseason, Smith-Rivera will be more prepared to be a top scoring option, while also bringing his impressive defensive and rebounding abilities to the starting lineup.
Starks, after an impressive junior season where he averaged over 12 points per game while shooting over 41 percent from three-point range, is hungry for postseason success. “You know, when I think of … the guys that came before me. When I think about Roy Hibbert, his senior year: out in the second round. You know Chris Wright: out in the first round. You know I don’t want to leave that legacy. Not to take anything away from their careers, but I want to leave a legacy. I want to leave here on a very positive note,” Starks said.
After being named to the Bob Cousy Award watch list, an award for college basketball’s top point guard, and the preseason All-Big East first team, Starks is moving on to the national scene, and is poised for a strong season, where he will be in the spotlight from day one. Starks ended up in Head Coach John Thompson III’s doghouse two years ago for his attitude, but is now trusted to be the team’s floor general.
“Markel and I are at the point where he knows exactly what I want. He knows not only what I need of him but what I need him to help everyone else to the point I need everyone else to get to.” Thompson said, “So that happens when you have older guys that have gone through it and gone from being the Reggie Camerons of the world, trying to figure out what language Coach is speaking right now, to the senior that understands that I don’t have to have a conversation. Yes, I think we are in a very good place. That’s how it should be.”
Though junior center Josh Smith’s presence on the floor could redefine the Hoya offense, right now, the focus will be on Starks and Smith-Rivera, who will also see open lanes to the basket with stronger post presences on the team. With the Hoyas high on experience this year, and the pieces coming together for a complete lineup, don’t be surprised when this dynamic duo scores in avalanches.