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JT3: “We Want To Run”

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Georgetown Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Just expect the old school Georgetown, that’s all I can say on that. It’s a lot more fast paced a lot more getting it and going and still keeping that Princeton involved at the same time. I think people will enjoy it. – Bradley Hayes on what style to expect from the 2016-17 Georgetown Hoyas

Optimism was in the air as the Hoyas held their annual pre-season media day on Thursday afternoon at the ridiculously awesome, brand new John Thompson Jr Athletic Center. Most of the players were made available to the media on the practice courts – Jagan Mosely, Jonathan Mullmore, and George Muresan were ineligible due to a longstanding policy – and then afterwards Coach John Thompson III spent about a half hour going over the state of the program in one of the team meeting rooms on the second floor.

The big news of the day was obviously learning that Bradley Hayes is in fact unavailable for Georgetown’s first four games as some sort of trade-off in the fifth year center obtaining an extra year of eligibility. It seems like more than a fair deal for the Hoyas except when you consider that Georgetown plays nationally ranked Maryland and Oregon during that opening stretch. I don’t think the Hoyas are going to rely as heavily on the seven footer as they did last year but he clearly gives them an option on offense that not many teams can counter.

Despite being unavailable until the second round in Maui, Hayes was completely upbeat about returning for one more season.

“Excited,” Hayes said when asked about his return. “Every adjective you can think of. I’m just excited to be back and I’m ready to do a lot of things I didn’t accomplish last year.”

Of course despite being a fifth year senior, Hayes isn’t the oldest player on the team. That falls to 24 year old graduate transfer Rodney Pryor, most recently of Robert Morris, who picked the Hoyas over such heavyweights as Florida and Kansas. No matter who you talked to, the answers were similar, Pryor has not only fit in quickly with the Hoyas but he has taken a large leadership role. Just ask Jessie Govan.

“He’s one of our leaders on the team even though he’s only been here for a short amount of time because he’s so experienced,” Govan said. “He knows what it takes to win. He’s a winner. He’s been nothing but great since he’s gotten here. He’s really just taken over our leadership role. He doesn’t take any slack from anyone.”

Well you can’t go to a Georgetown preseason event without talking about the offense and the tempo. Will the Hoyas play faster? That’s always the question. Now in his thirteenth season in charge of the Hoyas, JT3 fields more questions about offense than most coaches because of his Princeton roots. He usually flips the question to defense and after the last few years, you can’t really blame him. With one of, it not his deepest team ever, it’s not about having the depth to run but about getting stops and fouling less.

“We want to run. We got to get stops, and we have to rebound the ball. ... Our defense really let us down last year as much as anything and when we have had good teams we’ve been very good defensive teams. Last year we were not a very good defensive team. Last year we fouled too much. Last year we didn't get to the line enough. All of those have been looked at and try to figure out how to address those issues. But our defense is key. We have to get stops, we have to create stops and no matter what we’re doing offensively we didn’t make life difficult enough for our opposition last year.”

For all of the changes the Hoyas have had with assistant coaches, a grad transfer and a juco transfer, the biggest change is going to have to be in the defense and the above quote is pretty good one to show that JT3 understands that. Here are some other interesting quotes from the media day.

Sixth Man: After setting in nicely as an off the bench presence because of early foul troubles it sounds as if it’s up to L. J. Peak as to whether he’s going to remain the sixth man or go back to a starter. “He definitely played better coming off the bench last year, and I think it got to be mental with him.” At one point last season JT3 wanted to put him back in the starting lineup but Peak wanted to continue to come off the bench.

“Hopefully he is different in that we don’t have to do that, it doesn’t mean we won’t, but we’ve adjusted a lot of things in how we’re teaching defense. Hopefully some of that will help in him not picking up the ticky tack fouls.” That being said, JT3 thinks Peak is the team’s best on ball defender despite the fouls. He also needs to hear from the soft spoken junior more often. “We need to hear LJ’s voice more. LJ’s not an introvert but he’s far from being an extrovert.”

NBA can wait: Big guys that can shoot the three ball are a high commodity in the pros right but and despite seeing his name pop up on NBA draft boards such as Draft Express, sophomore Jessie Govan isn’t worried about what might be eventually down the road.

“I’m more focused on the season,” Govan said. “If it happens, it happens. If I happen to have the opportunity at the end of the season so be it but I’m really just focused on the season right now.”

Most Improved: Govan thinks that fellow sophomore Kaleb Johnson is the team’s most improved player. That’s a nice compliment but it caught Johnson by surprise as he struggled to figure out why he got that honor from his classmate.

“I don’t know,” Johnson said after a few laughs. “I’ve put on a little weight and I’ve been working on my shot, being more confident in my shot making ability.” Last year JT3 compared Johnson to Hoya great Otto Porter in part because of some of his hustle plays. Johnson actually shot better from behind the three-point line, 54 percent, than from the foul line, 52 percent. Look for Johnson to take and make more shots when left open this season as he only attempted thirteen shots from deep despite the good percentage.

Ready to Go: It’s been almost two years since Akoy Agau played a competitive college basketball game but the Louisville transfer, who missed all of last season with an injury, says he will be ready to go on opening day against USC-Upstate.

“I’m 100 percent,” Agau said. “I’m out here practicing. I was active in our scrimmage that we had last weekend against Manhattan.”

Agau can’t wait to get on the court as he talked about how tough it was to see his teammates struggle while being unable to do anything about it on the court. “Just to know that we had a chance to be a really good team and we still struggled out there was very hard for me obviously knowing my game and some things I could have brought to the team and just sitting on the sidelines was pretty hard for me.”

Numbers don’t Lie: Every player has different ways to get over bad season but for Kaleb Johnson his motivation is limited to two numbers. “15-18,” Johnson said when asked about what motivated him over the summer to get better. “15-18, that was our record last year and last year was hard. Especially as a freshmen coming to a school like Georgetown where you expect to win. When you lose your first college game, that’s hard. The whole season was up and down so of course the whole summer we’re thinking about 15-18 and how we’re going to improve on it.” Johnson didn’t get into how this year was going to be different other to repeatedly say the only way to fix it is to win.