College basketball's long summer offers players plenty of time for improvement. How much they take advantage of that opportunity may dictate how much they play in the next season and beyond. The most famous example in recent Hoya history is Henry Sims, who followed three years of lots of potential and personality but little production with a summer of diligent focus and hard work and, in turn, a remarkable senior senior.
Next year's Hoya roster will include three upperclassmen who, like Sims, enter their fourth seasons of eligibility without having risen above the role player level at Georgetown. Each of these three players has lost significant playing time, whether to injury or to transfer. Each also is somewhat of an unknown quantity for the season ahead, whether because of development, conditioning, or eligibility. Nevertheless, each could carve out a significant role in the season ahead, and we'll get the chance to see them in action beginning this Saturday, when Kenner League play begins.
- What he did last season. Ayegba played very little in his first season on the Hilltop as he adjusted to the college game, then not at all in his sophomore year, which he missed with a torn ACL. Against this record, it was hard to know what to expect from Moses in year three. The least delusional of us were pleasantly surprised, then, to see him emerge as a solid rotation player, particularly against opponents with large posts. In particular, Moses was a force on defense and on the glass in big road wins at Notre Dame and Syracuse. The offense was still a work in progress, but by season's end Ayegba had carved out a valuable role.
- How he'll fit in next season. Hard to say, as Ayegba may face a minutes crunch. While Josh Smith's application for an NCAA waiver is still pending, JTIII talks as if Smith will take the court this year, regardless of his remaining eligibility. The possible development of Bradley Hayes also may earn him some additional playing time. Both Smith's and Hayes's burn could come at Ayegba's expense.
- What he needs to do in the off-season. Develop a few post moves. While Ayegba has become an effective rebounder and serviceable defender, on offense he remains at best a finisher of wide-open opportunities, and at worst a non-entity. A team that will be without all-everything Otto Porter and Porter's presumptive replacement, Greg Whittington, may not be able to afford to play 4-on-5 on offense. Ayegba needs to develop a drop-step and more than the sweeping hook shot we've seen occasionally.
- What he did last season.Got on the court! Like Ayegba, Bowen spent one of his first two seasons injured, and the other on the bench, leaving him an unknown entering his third season. He remained that way until Whittington's suspension, at which point JTIII allowed Bowen the most significant playing time of his career in wins over St. John's and Providence. AB largely rewarded that confidence, scoring 13 points across those two games and canning several threes. A game-winning circus put-back against Louisville and an emphatic put-back in the home game against St. John's also made the highlight reel, but a vicious cycle of declining productivity and declining minutes left Bowen again watching his teammates from the pine.
- How he'll fit in next season. Suddenly, Bowen looks like a viable contender for a starting spot, and at minimum is almost certain to play significant minutes. Whittington is out indefinitely with a torn ACL, leaving a starting spot open. One option would be to start the team's three guards, a formation that the Hoyas used down the stretch last season, alongside Nate Lubick and the starting center (presumably Mikael Hopkins until Smith is eligible, but an open question after that). But JTIII seemed to scuttle that possibility in a recent interview. With none of the posts qualified to shift to the wing, the remaining alternatives at small forward are Bowen, Stephen Domingo, whom Bowen largely replaced in last year's rotation, and freshman Reggie Cameron. With more experience than the other two options combined, Bowen would seem to be a good candidate for starting small forward, provided that he can iron out a few kinks.
- What he needs to do in the off-season. Refine his jumper, and watch lots of film. Bowen has had brief stretches of productivity from beyond the three-point arc, but remains an inconsistent threat from outside. His form is somewhat long and looping, with a lot of moving parts that can go wrong. Tightening up his shooting motion, and more generally just shooting a ton, will help Bowen be a more effective contributor next season. Probably due to lack of floor time, Bowen also seemed to float outside the team structure, both on offense and defense. Missed defensive rotations, cuts, and other opportunities were unfortunately common in Bowen's first significant action. As a presumptive contributor next season, he'll have to become more comfortable at both ends of the floor.
- What he did last season.Wore a dress shirt and tie. Smith transferred from UCLA mid-season, and will sit out until at least the end of first semester of the coming season.
- How he'll fit in next season. Assuming he plays, Smith will be the Hoyas' best big man threat since at least Henry Sims, and considering the fact that both Sims and Greg Monroe thrived from the high post, perhaps Georgetown's best in the low block since Roy Hibbert. That's at one end of the floor, at least. Smith's ability to score and crash the offensive boards will depend on his conditioning, which will dictate whether he can stay on the floor and defend effectively.
- What he needs to do in the off-season. Run, run, run. There's little question about Smith's skill or potential. Rather, the concerns are about his weight (over 300 pounds, by most estimations) and conditioning. Georgetown is not exactly run-and-gun, but then again neither was UCLA, and Smith's career high in minutes was 21.7, in his freshman year. Reversing a decline in minute and physical conditioning must be Smith's objective this summer. As with Bowen, Smith may be taking on larger responsibilities than first anticipated, given Whittington's injury. Whether these upperclassmen can take that next step will figure prominently in the success of Georgetown's upcoming season.