Is this team too young?
At the start of last season, the Hoyas were young and unranked, and everyone wondered whether the five freshmen would be able to contribute on a regular basis. We assumed that at least three of the freshmen needed to receive extended playing time for Georgetown to be competitive. By the end of the season, after Georgetown’s second half surge and eventual #3 seed in the Tourney, people were asking the opposite question: how is Georgetown going to replace its seniors? We always new that Jason Clark would score points, but we had only seen Hollis Thompson in his role as a sharpshooting sixth man, and we had no idea that Hank Sims would emerge as such a beast in the paint. Did Hollis and Henry take advantage of more playing time? Did they improve after having been exposed to the offense for 3+ years? Or was it the fact that they were seniors (or in Hollis’s case, a green-shirt junior)? It was probably a combination of all three.
Regardless of the reasons, one thing is clear: we thought we had a young team last year, but it turned out that we didn’t. We had a nice blend of veterans and youth. This year, however, we definitely have a young team. No seniors, four freshmen, five sophomores, and a whole lot of guys looking to find roles. Jason, Hollis and Henry combined to produce 56% of the Hoyas’ scoring last season. That’s a lot to make up. Sure, when presented with more playing time, guys will step up. But man, this team is young. Who will lead? Will it be the soft-spoken Otto Porter, as the unquestioned "best player" on the team? Markel Starks? The Vanilla Gorilla? I’m excited to find out.
Will we have enough of an inside presence?
The evolution of Henry Sims was a beautiful thing to watch. He was a good rebounder, our leading passer (3.5 apg), and developed a nice little inside-outside game, with that sweet baby hook and decent jump shot. Now, we’re back to square one. We don’t have a legitimate center. We’ll have to rely on some combination of Nate Lubick (3.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.0 apg), Mikael Hopkins (2.4 ppg, 1.1 rpg) and Otto. But none of these guys is going to replace Hank Sims, who was solid at the 5. Lubick is undersized and doesn’t have enough finesse around the basket. Tyler Adams is out for the season with an irregular heartbeat. And the bigger freshmen, Brandon Bolden (6’10’’) and BJ Hayes (7’0’’), are unproven. Bolden, who JTIII has described as "bouncy", will see some minutes, but Hayes, who has grown several inches in the last two years, is more of a project and likely won’t play very much this season.
Unless Moses Ayegba, the oft-injured 6’10’’ junior, emerges out of nowhere, the anchor in the middle, by default, will have to be Hopkins and everyone knows it. Even JTIII, who is typically guarded about these things and doesn’t like to speak in terms of "positions", said recently that Hopkins will need to play well this season for Georgetown to have a good season. Apparently, both Lubick and Hopkins have put on a lot of muscle, and Hopkins, in particular, looks like a more polished player. He’ll need to be. For this team to advance far, Hop needs to be the man in the middle. We’ll know very quickly whether he can fill in adequately for Big Hank.
Can we shoot well enough from the perimeter?
Let’s not underestimate the importance of Hollis and Jason. They accounted for 57% of all three-pointers last season, and they were far better shooters than anyone else on the team, with Hollis being one of the best shooters in the country. Among our returning players, Markel Starks is all of a sudden the most potent perimeter scorer, and that’s not saying much. I’m sure we’ll see occasional sparks from the perimeter from Greg Whittington and Otto, but whether this year’s squad will shoot well from beyond the arc will probably depend on a different group of freshmen and sophomores.
The best shooter on the team is almost certainly Stephen Domingo, a 6’6’’ freshman, who graduated a year early, but won a gold medal last year as a key member of the USA Under-17 world championship team. The guy is basically Hollis Thompson. He’s even from California. JTIII has called him a "big time" shooter. It’s a shame the young guy won’t have a year to learn under Hollis’s tutelage, but oh well. Domingo, who is skinny and looks even younger than he is, won’t start, but he’ll come off the bench and hopefully get some perimeter looks on a consistent basis. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a 6’3’’ freshman, should get even more opportunities. Smith-Rivera, the latest All-Met player to come to the Hilltop, is built like a college player. He’s a muscular combo guard, who appears to be equally good at penetrating or stepping behind the line to hit a shot. We’ll see how he develops in the first month or two. Smith-Rivera should see a ton of minutes.
And let’s not forget about Jabril Trawick and Aaron Bowen. Trawick, a gritty 6’5’’ sophomore, is more of a slasher than a shooter; in limited minutes last year he shot only 24% from beyond the arc. But he may need to step up his outside shooting this season to give the Hoyas more balance. Bowen is more of a wild card. He only played 3.8 minutes per game last year, and with a crowded backcourt he may not see that much action, but if he does, he’s arguably one of the best shooters on the team. If given a chance, he could fill in nicely as a perimeter threat.
Will Georgetown’s defense be as good as last year’s?
I hope so. I loved our defense last year. Much of it had to do with our incredible length. Our effective defensive field goal percentage was in the top 10 last year. With five players at least 6’8’’ last season (Henry, Hollis, Otto, Whitt, Nate), we were usually able to stymie the opposition. We could be just as good this year, but it may take awhile. Otto, Hopkins, Whitt and Nate are all likely to start, along with Little Markel, and that should be okay, especially with Whitt on the perimeter, but we don’t have much depth in the frontcourt.
I’m excited to watch Cool Whitt play this year. Everyone knows Otto is the most likely guy to bolt for the NBA at the end of the season, but Greg has a chance to be special too. His defense is a joy to watch, and his shot is improving too. As he develops confidence and bulks up, he’s only going to get better. And his braces are fantastic.
We’ll likely switch from man to zone a lot this season, just as we did last year, but a more interesting question is whether we will press. JTIII has said this year’s team is one of the deepest he has ever had, in the sense that there isn’t much difference between the second-best player and the tenth-best player. If Georgetown uses a rotation of nine or even ten guys this year, there should be more opportunities to run and press. We’ll see. It’s not really JTIII’s style to unleash havoc in the backcourt; he usually prefers to apply some token pressure, but this is a new year and a new team. I’m curious to see what he does.
Will the universe explode on March 9?
Yes. And it should. Georgetown will host Syracuse in the final Big East regular-season showdown between the two lovers. It could be the greatest day of our lives. Or the worst. It might be the only game that really matters all season.