I took off for North Carolina to celebrate my grandpa's 80th birthday Friday morning without a care in the world. The air was fresh, I wasn't spending another hot day cramped up in an office, and I was excited for a weekend with loved ones. When I landed in Asheville, my Blackberry started buzzing non-stop. At first I thought "I guess a bunch of people are excited to send me pictures of their lunches." Instead, news came that Rakeem Christmas was committing to Syracuse. Granted, I am not the recruiting buff Hire Esherick, Hoyasincebirth, or others on this site are, but I knew Christmas was a big deal. I knew we spent an inordinate amount of time recruiting him, and to lose him meant bad news for 2011, which has yet to yield a commitment for the Hoyas. To lose him to Syracuse, well that was catastrophic. At least as catastrophic as it can be when talking about a scrawny 17-year-old I will never meet.
After sifting through the 330+ comments of incessant banter between our Georgetown fans and Syracuse trolls, I think we need to take a high level look at recruiting and I think I am the man for the job. I say this because I really don't pay that much attention to recruiting. It's too hard to follow, I never actually see the high schoolers play, and I don't know that much about basketball.
Read my take on the current state of recruiting after The Jump.
First, losing Christmas is bad. There isn't any other way to slice it. We put 2+ years into recruiting him, and Syracuse swooped in and landed him within about a month. Losing any recruit you put that much time into sucks, the fact that it was within the conference extra sucks, the fact that it was Syracuse extra extra sucks. But it happens. Ask Duke fans how they felt when Greg Monroe announced he was coming to Georgetown. At that point Duke was coming off a first round loss to #11 seeded VCU and had made Monroe the centerpiece of their 2008 class. Georgetown swooped in, Duke had a subpar recruiting class, yet two years later, they won the National Championship. One recruit doesn't make or break a program, and the sky isn't falling.
Though one recruit doesn't make or break a program, it is troubling we have 0 commitments for 2011. Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Julian Vaughn will be gone after next year. Greg Monroe left early. That means only Jason Clark will be back from the 2009-2010 Hoyas starting five. We have four open scholarships and no commitments in August. After an underwhelming 2009 recruiting class and a solid 2010 class, the common refrain from Hoya fans was "Wait til 2011". Well 2011 is here, and we've already lost Rakeem Christmas and Tyrone Johnson to Syracuse and Villanova, respectively. Granted, approximately 65% of the Rivals top 150 have yet to commit, but what started with such promise has yielded very little thus far. The question is what gives?
Facilities (or lackthereof) have been an issue Georgetown coaches have had to contend with since John Thompson Jr. was at the helm. The perceived shortcomings of the Princeton offense are something JT3 has had to deal with in his six years on the recruiting trail. Neither the facilities nor the offense stopped him from landing Greg Monroe, Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Vernon Macklin, and DaJuan Summers, among others. JT3 helped guide Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert from three star recruits to 1st round NBA Draft picks. He has sent 5 players to the NBA in the last four years, all of whom were 6'8" or taller. Why a raw but athletic big man like Rakeem Christmas wouldn't want to hone his craft at Georgetown with JT3's track record is beyond my comprehension. But the fact remains that he chose Syracuse.
The combination of early postseason losses the last three years and the ever-poisonous culture of AAU basketball have put JT3's recruiting efforts between a rock and a hard place. In 2008, when a recruit questioned if he could prosper in the Georgetown offense, JT3 could point to the enormous tournament successes of previous years. A rising senior recruit now was in 8th grade when we went to the Final Four in 2007. You remember being in 8th grade vs. being a senior? You may as well have been a different person. So while three and a half years doesn't seem like too long ago for us older folks, it's a lifetime difference for these recruits.
The upside of our current predicament is that one year of postseason success will wipe away the last three of disappointment. Building a corporation or program based on the moods of 16 and 17 year olds can be very fickle. Thankfully, it works both ways, and Georgetown should be well positioned to make a deep run in the tournament this year. As I've said before, this is a very important year for JT3 to regain the momentum he meticulously crafted during the first three years of his tenure. He will have a roster overflowing with athletic and talented guards. If we push the tempo, consistently score in the 70s and 80s, play well in the NCAA Tournament and have Freeman and Wright drafted, all will be cured. The media stories will be centered around "A New and Improved Georgetown Offense". On the recruiting trail, JT3 will be able to point to tournament success and the ability to develop both guards and big men into NBA talents.
JT3 has built a program that demands respect and produces good players both on and off the court. Jay Bilas recently said that he continues to be impressed with the quality of kid Georgetown has. That is something to be proud of as an alumnus. Even in the current state of college athletics, where scandals are in the news on a daily basis, Georgetown still fields a team that is consistently ranked in the top 20 and stays out of the headlines. Georgetown will have a great 2010-2011 and winning will cure our current recruiting problems. We won't have Christmas this year, but we can still celebrate Hanukkah with CasualHoya.