After one of the wilder Georgetown games in recent memory, Christmas came a bit early as freshmen James Akinjo and Mac McClung made their post-game press conference debuts alongside coach Patrick Ewing a little earlier than most expected.
While Georgetown still makes freshmen wait until the second semester to speak with the media there has been some grey area in this department over the years. Sometimes they are free game after the Fall semester exams have been completed. Sometimes it’s after Jan 1 and other times it’s not until the Spring semester begins.
Either way, it was great to have them available after Georgetown’s 102-94 overtime win over Little Rock as McClung looks to have broken a freshman single game scoring record with 38 points while Akinjo went for career best 25 points.
First things, first, let’s start with McClung talking about his aggressive start as he took 10 of his 21 shots in the first half.
“I just tried to stick to the game plan,” McClung said. “James did a lot of great things too. We just try and feed off each other’s energy.”
This is a sign of good things to come as it’s both a great game plan offensively to have McClung attack the rim and it’s even better if the two guards can play off each other rather than have one guy fade away while the other excels.
As you would expect for a young player, McClung has come a long way since early November. McClung went 14 for 16 from the line. Those are pretty big numbers for a player that didn’t attempt a free throw in the Hoyas first six games.
Another shooting number to look at for McClung is his three-point numbers through those first six games. McClung was 3 for 21 from deep which isn’t a number that will make any defense lose sleep. On Saturday against Little Rock, McClung was 4 for 9 from that distance.
So, what’s changed?
“Just a lot of hard work, listening to coach, going over film,” McClung said. “I knew it was going to be a learning process when I came here so just working as hard as I can.”
“I just keep working with our coaching staff and watching certain situations and taking the right shots.”
And as for McClung’s big 4-point play in overtime, the frosh pulled off a veteran move: “I got hit a little bit and I felt good so I tried to sell it a little bit.”
McClung has gone from a scoreless outing in the Hoyas first loss to Loyola Marymount in Jamaica to now scoring in double figures in six straight games after nearly going for 40 against the Trojans.
Asked if McClung has a green light, Ewing basically said yes while including Akinjo in his answer.
“He has a green light but he still has to make the right play,” Ewing said about McClung.
“Shoot when you have your shot, pass when you don’t. Wait for the pick at times. I got to mess with him a little bit. He was hot, they both were hot. They both made shots and made plays when it was needed.”
Akinjo’s 25 points would have been a headline in almost any other game had McClung not gone off on his own. The 6-foot-guard from Oakland, Ca. had this to say about playing alongside McClung when he gets cooking.
“It becomes real fun,” Akinjo said with a smile. “You get the crowd involved. He’s making shots, I make a couple plays here and there. It’s real fun playing with him. He makes it easier for me and our team as well.”
On his way to a great game, Akinjo got off to a tough start. While he finished with seven assists and four turnovers, all of those mistakes happened in the first half with three coming before the 16 minute media timeout. Ewing called an early timeout of his own to settle his point guard down.
“He just told me to settle down a little bit,” Akinjo said of Ewing’s timeout talk. “A lot of my turnovers early were just miscommunication with the team so during the timeout I just had to talk to the guys and they talked to me and I thought we fixed it.”
Akinjo, who averages 13.6 points and 4.5 assists per game, later opened up as to what’s been the biggest challenge in going from high school to college.
“Learning when to go and when not to go because that’s the biggest transition I got coming out of high school,” said Akinjo. “Just when to shoot and the type of shots I shoot. That just comes from repetition and watching a lot of film with my coaches and things like that.”
So even when your backcourt combines to score 63 points, you know that a coach will find something that he’d like to improve and Ewing is no different.
“They are playing extremely well,” Ewing said. “They are growing every game. They still have to learn a lot more things. Sharing the ball, not going before the offensive call is called. Learning how to set their man up coming off screens. But no they are doing a very good job.”
And there you have it. The first of many, many trips by McClung and Akinjo to the podium.
Georgetown is off for a week before hosting Howard on Dec 29 in the last non-conference game of the season.