Nearly a decade in, the prototypical JT3-era Hoya has become clear: multi-skilled, adept both at finding the open teammate and seeking out his own shot, capable of finishing near the basket and operating on the perimeter. These diverse traits belong to several Georgetown players who ended up as first-round picks: Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe, and most recently Otto Porter. Incoming recruits, especially 2014 products Isaac Copeland and Paul White, fit that mold as well.
But it's also nice to have someone who does something specific really well. Hoya sophomore D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera instinctively understands that the game is about getting buckets. This quality was in demand during DSR's freshman year, and may be all the more so in the year to come.
Last year's statistics: 25.5 min. pg, 8.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.8 stl pg, 40.4 FG%, 33.6 3FG%
Smith-Rivera arrived as the most ready of the incoming Hoya recruiting class, bearing the reputation of a natural scorer who would need to develop the rest of his game. True to form, he entered the season opener against Florida and promptly fired up a couple of shots in the half before play was canceled. That was just a preview of coming attractions. A minor injury to Otto Porter in the team's home opener left the Hoyas temporarily adrift until DSR stepped in, canning four three-pointers and six of his seven shots en route to a team-high 19 points in his official debut. A team that sometimes lacked offensive initiative seemed to have a spark plug off the bench.
As it happened, that was the most we would see of Smith-Rivera for more than two months. As willing as he was to hunt shots, DSR lacked consistency in other parts of the game, particularly defensive focus and effort. Many freshmen take a while to get up to speed defensively, and Smith-Rivera was no exception, suffering through costly and occasionally embarrassing lapses in defensive attention. With a more seasoned and defensively adept guard rotation ahead of him, DSR found his minutes limited.
But then Greg Whittington was ruled ineligible, and JT3 suddenly had to replace the sophomore wing's 35 minutes per game. Coincidentally, DSR had a baker's dozen worth of games under his belt, and was ready to take on a greater share of the burden. He seized the opportunity, averaging nearly 10 more minutes and 6 more points per game after Whittington's ineligibility. In addition to emerging as the team's third offensive option, notching double-figure points in 10 of those 19 post-Whit games, DSR became a spirited defender and, using his broad frame, a very good rebounder for a guard.
As with any freshman, there were ups and downs. Smith-Rivera was prone to cold shooting nights (1-of-10 in an upset of Louisville; 4 of his last 17 in season-ending losses to Syracuse and Florida-Gulf Coast), and on the whole he offered more volume than efficiency. But there were many nights (in narrow road wins at Rutgers, Cincinnati, and Connecticut) when DSR contributed vital offense to a team that scored just enough points to get by. He also made something of a habit of pouring it on, scoring in double figures five times when Georgetown won by more than 15 points, most notably a 33-point virtuoso performance over a hapless DePaul squad (ok, ok, "hapless" and "DePaul" are redundant).
Looking to his sophomore year, Smith-Rivera seemed ready to take on an even greater load. Opportunity once again presented itself when Otto Porter entered the NBA draft draft and, two months later, Whittington tore his ACL. Suddenly, DSR needed to be the second or third scoring option, depending on Josh Smith's condition and eligibility. With those high hopes, Kenner League loomed large as a measure of DSR's readiness for a starring role.
Smith-Rivera largely lived up to those expectations, running the point on a team that included teammates Smith and Reggie Cameron. While he sometimes struggled with his outside shot, DSR found his similarly offensive-minded teammates in scoring positions while also attacking the rim when given the chance. Those worried about Smith-Rivera's conditioning also were pleased to see that he had dropped some weight.
JT3 on D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera "I expect him to make a big jump. He's in much better shape than he was in a year ago."— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 1, 2013
Have to put D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera on the national breakout list. Should lead Georgetown in scoring. Down 15-20 pounds since last year.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 1, 2013
The stars are aligned for a big jump from DSR this season. Georgetown has a veteran but thin back-court and a gaping hole at small forward, meaning that Smith-Rivera will have as many minutes as he can take. He'll also see plenty of shots, with Porter gone to the pros and Whittington out with injury.
The biggest questions for Smith-Rivera are whether he can shoot more accurately and whether he can balance the need to create his own offense with the opportunity to find an open teammate. Both improvements are to be expected, particularly this early in his career. For example, DSR's back-court mates Markel Starks and Jabril Trawick both have improved their outside shooting percentages and assist rates every year on campus. Last year, DSR averaged 8.9 points, 3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in just over 25 minutes per game while shooting 33.6 percent from 3. If Smith-Rivera follows that trend, a bump up to the mid-teens in scoring, 4-5 rebounds, 2-3 assists, and mid-30s from deep seems reasonable.
DSR and Starks form a lethal back-court combination leading the team in scoring and setting up teammates on the perimeter and in the post. DSR continues to make up in defensive effort and strength what he lacks in wingspan and lateral quickness. His broad frame continues to make him an effective rebounder, and his outside shot develops from passable to dangerous. In all, he tallies 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal while shooting 37 percent from 3-point range. At the end of his sophomore campaign, DSR is primed to be the first option on a freshman-heavy 2014 squad.
DSR remains a shoot-first guard of middling efficiency. His shot is no more accurate than in year one, and he fails to find shots for his teammates. After some grit toward the end of his first season, Smith-Rivera regresses defensively. Without a viable candidate at small forward, JT3 is left with a three-guard alignment that includes a defensive sieve.
Georgetown faces several open questions this season: who will play small forward; when Smith will be eligible; who will provide scoring off the bench; how the offense will adjust in Porter's absence; and whether JT3 can cobble together two-way lineups that can guard opponents and also score enough to win. Entering his sophomore year, Smith-Rivera's progress naturally is a question. Based on his freshman year and the summer tea leaves, the answer appears to bode well for the Hoyas.