Our Award-Winning Player Profiles series rolls on today with Georgetown's sophomore class. Yesterday, we previewed the lone Hoya freshman, Reggie Cameron.
For a long time, a average college athlete followed a similar timeline to that of the average college student: enroll at age 18, graduate four years later. Technically, college athletes faced a third variable--seasons of eligibility--but for many years that distinction mattered only in cases of serious injury or the rare transfer. However, over the past thirty years, athletes have faced an increasingly complex calculus, one that increasingly includes professional ambitions, serious injuries, NCAA-mandated transfer periods, and waivers of those periods. In the past decade, that juggling act has begun even earlier than college, as prep players often are held back a year to maximize their college prospects, then in many cases reclassified back to their original class to start the clock ticking toward their NBA eligibility. Simply knowing that a player is a "sophomore" might not tell you his age or the number of seasons of eligibility he has remaining. Of the 13 Hoyas on this year's roster, 5 (including Greg Whittington, who likely will miss this season with a torn ACL, making him eligible for another season) have broken from (or in Josh Smith's case, asked the NCAA to allow him to break from) the traditional college path.
Perhaps the most curious case is that of Stephen Domingo, who is now a sophomore but is the same age--and until the summer of 2012, the same high school class--as incoming freshman Reggie Cameron. Before that inflection point, Domingo was a promising wing in the class of 2013, known for a sweet jump shot and lengthy, wiry frame. That May, Domingo committed to Georgetown, seemingly preparing to replace Otto Porter, Whittington, or both the following year.
Last year's statistics: 20 games played, 5.6 min. pg, 1.0 ppg, 0.4 rpg, 0.5 apg, 30.8 FG%, 11.1 3FG%
In July 2012, Domingo's story changed when it was revealed that he would enroll at Georgetown immediately. Initially, it was unclear whether Domingo would play in his first year on the Hilltop or whether he would simply practice in his first year, like Hollis Thompson's experience upon enrolling a semester early in 2009. That ambiguity was clarified in Georgetown's ship show against Florida, when Domingo entered the game midway through the first half.
The online chatter was that the Hoyas could use Domingo's marksmanship, having lost the sweet-shooting Thompson from the previous season. But the young freshman's stroke took a while to arrive, as Domingo went 0-for-7 from three over his first four (completed) games. Still, against lesser non-conference opponents, Domingo managed to convert some easier buckets, and showed some promise as a passer and cutter, even if he tended to stand still too long on offense. In one-sided December wins against Texas and Longwood, Domingo even converted a pair of triples, seeming to round into form just in time for Big East action.
Just as quickly, Domingo stopped making threes and then eventually stopped taking them entirely. In 26 minutes of action after the beginning of conference play, Domingo took just two shots, both bricks. Not an especially adept ball handler, defender, or rebounder, he lacked other ways to affect the game. Searching for ways to fill the minutes previously played by the ineligible Whittington, JT3 soon turned away from Domingo and toward other options, playing his youngest player only in blowouts. In all, Domingo looked very much the part of a 17-year-old freshman, losing confidence in his best skill and lacking other ways to earn playing time. Eventually, he was consigned to clean-up duty, his high-waisted shorts becoming something of a victory cigar for last year's Hoyas.
Last season, Domingo was a year of physical maturity behind most freshmen, let alone older players. Playing him early had another cost, which will not be felt until 2016-17. By using a season of eligibility when he otherwise could have been a senior in high school, Domingo will not be able to use a season of eligibility when players his age are seniors in college. For players who stay all four years (which there is every reason to believe that Domingo will be) that, in effect, is a trade of a player's most productive season for his least.
As in most years, the only chance to gauge players' progress this off-season was at Kenner League. Judging by others' reports, his shot was somewhat improved from his errant freshman year, but the progress was from disastrous to passable, and not quite to sniper. As it had been during the season, Domingo's shooting form was inconsistent, as he tended to point his feet in different directions depending on the shot, and fade away even on routine jumpers. Still, he was able to score by slashing and cutting, finding points nearer the basket even when his jumper wouldn't fall.
Domingo certainly will have the opportunity to be a contributor in the coming season. Even if JT3 covers up the hole at small forward by starting a three-guard lineup, somewhere around 30 minutes will be available on the wing. The only candidates for that position are Domingo, Aaron Bowen, and possibly Cameron. Bowen will offer athleticism, streaky outside shooting, and energy, but last season still looked more the part of .gif wonder than the sort of versatile, skilled wing who is most at home in Georgetown's offense. Cameron provides plenty of offensive firepower, and could usurp Domingo as the team's presumed sharpshooter. Still, Cameron may not be quick enough to guard opposing wings, and so may be relegated to a small-ball power forward role.
Domingo won't be asked to do much this season. At any time, at least two of Markel Starks, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Nate Lubick, and Smith should be on the floor, serving as the offense's focal point or facilitator. In those arrangements, Domingo would merely need to covert the chances given to him: hit an open jumper, finishing a cut to the rim, find the open teammate.
In a relatively rosy version of his sophomore season, Domingo would find his jumper, opening up driving lanes and the post for his teammates, adding grease to what could be a creaky Georgetown offense. Domingo's sharp shooting keeps zone defenses honest, allowing Smith to wreak havoc in the post and Starks and DSR to overwhelm opposing guards. Seizing the opportunity when those teammates have the ball, Domingo becomes an adept cutter, finishing opportunities created by other Hoyas. He also becomes a more adept and committed defender, eventually averaging 15 minutes, 5 points, 35 percent or more from 3-point range, a rebound, an assist, and the occasional steal.
On the other hand, continued struggles by Domingo could call into question the experiment of early enrollment. If he does not find his jumper, and also is unable to contribute meaningfully in other ways, he could find himself relegated to the bench behind Bowen, Cameron, and the veteran guard rotation. Domingo's wayward jumper could become a painful reminder of his Knoblauchian psychological struggles. As the year progresses, JT3 passes over Domingo when the overburdened back-court trio needs relief and Bowen and Cameron are in foul trouble, instead looking to reliable if limited senior walk-on John Caprio. Domingo's inability to crack the rotation this season is a preview of coming attractions, as the return of Greg Whittington and the arrivals of Isaac Copeland, Paul White, and LJ Peak squeeze Domingo's minutes going forward.