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The Future is Bright for Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas

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NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Butler Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As Georgetown’s season continues, the team, and particularly its young players, has shown huge progress. The team’s last two wins have made me even more excited for the team’s future, and the Hoyas could be a real threat next season as they continue to improve. To that end, I wanted to discuss a few key talking points regarding next season’s roster.

Patrick Ewing has shown that he is willing to put in the time and effort to recruit effectively.

When Ewing was hired, some fans and pundits expressed concern regarding his inexperience in the college game, and in recruiting in particular. Recruiting is a full-time job for a college coach, and Ewing had never driven and flown around the country to sit in cramped high school gyms. Would he have the drive and charisma to effectively connect with 17-year-olds?

Ten months after his hiring, while it’s still too early to judge Ewing’s tenure as the head man of the Hoyas, he has done a great deal to assuage the concerns about his recruiting ability. After signing on late, he brought in Jahvon Blair, who now looks like an excellent late-blooming spring signee, and Jamorko Pickett, who should be a foundational player for Georgetown’s future.

Since then, Ewing has been jetting around the country offering scholarships to dozens of potential Hoyas. He has already brought in a solid three-man group in the Class of 2018. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but nobody should doubt Ewing’s work ethic.

Georgetown needs to add at least one more guard for next season.

Georgetown’s roster is already thin at the guard position, with only four pure guards on the roster in Mosely, Mulmore, Blair, and Dickerson. Two of those players, Mulmore and Dickerson, will depart after this season, and as of now Georgetown only has one guard, Mac McClung, coming in for next season.

McClung, who has been a viral internet sensation for his dunking prowess, is a promising prospect, but he is still a three-star recruit who is playing against mediocre high school competition. I believe that McClung can be a contributor, but it would be unfair to expect any freshman guard to come in and immediately run the point for 35 minutes per game. With only three guards on the roster, an injury or an unforeseen departure could torpedo the season before it starts.

According to the Casual scholarship table, Georgetown has two remaining scholarships for next season. It’s clear that at least one, and possibly both, of these scholarships need to be used on guards, and at least one of them should be a point guard to complement McClung. Four-star recruit Devonaire Doutrive, junior college guard Wendell Mitchell, and late bloomer Damerius Wash are some of the names to watch in this area.

Another big man would be a nice luxury, but not a necessity, for next season.

Ewing said recently that he is looking to add a guard and a big man for next year’s roster. Given the fact that there is really only one player, Antwan Walker, backing up both Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson on the current roster, this makes sense. However, in my opinion, this isn’t quite as big a need as you might think, for a few reasons.

The first is Ewing’s willingness to use Derrickson as a small-ball center, and the success the team has had with that lineup. Derrickson is strong enough to withstand opposing centers in the post, and his shooting ability gives them fits on the offensive end. It’s probably not ideal to rely on this lineup for extended periods of time, but it’s proven to be a viable option and a testament to Ewing’s malleability as a coach.

Next season, Georgetown adds more frontcourt depth in the form of Josh LeBlanc and Grayson Carter, and Trey Mourning may return from injury for a final season. This would mean that despite only having one “pure” center on the roster in Govan, the Hoyas could have as many as five players — Derrickson, LeBlanc, Carter, Mourning, and Walker — to help fortify the big man rotation. Georgetown could still use another big man who can bring more rim protection, but I think that bringing in two guards, or a guard and a wing, would be an equally legitimate use of the remaining roster space.

In 2019, when Derrickson and Govan leave, adding multiple big men will be absolutely necessary. To that end, Ewing has been in touch with several elite Class of 2019 big men. But it’s generally a fool’s errand to forecast collegiate rosters more than one year in the future, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Josh LeBlanc has the potential to reshape the Hoyas’ defense.

LeBlanc, who was widely regarded as a top-100 prospect when he committed to Georgetown, has fallen off the radar a bit due to a foot injury he suffered during his high school season. Still, for as much hype as McClung has received, I think LeBlanc is the most important of the incoming recruits for next season.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan, LeBlanc brings an uncommon combination of length, athleticism, and timing to the forward position. On defense, he can guard multiple positions, block shots, and rebound. I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of LeBlanc as a small-ball center. While he doesn’t have Derrickson’s strength to battle Big East centers on the low block, he’s longer, bouncier, and quicker, and thus might be an even better fit for the role.

On offense, LeBlanc can’t bring Derrickson’s unique combination of punishing post moves and floor spacing, but his combination of size, quickness, and bounciness could still give opposing centers fits. I’m not sure how well this would actually work out, particularly before LeBlanc gets a year or two in a collegiate weight program, but I’m very intrigued to see if Ewing gives it a try.

Pickett and Blair’s progress is a testament to Ewing’s player development ability.

Early in the season, Pickett and Blair showed flashes of potential, but were mostly ineffective, with the occasional three-pointer being offset by flurries of turnovers and bad shots. Recently, though, you can almost literally see improvement in every game. This week’s Big East Freshman of the Week, Pickett has been firing away with confidence from deep, and is mixing in a creative drive to the hoop more and more often.

Blair, a more unheralded recruit, has shown absolutely no fear since day one, and has grown more savvy in picking his spots to get that smooth lefty jumper off. The next step for Blair is adding the ability to attack off the dribble, but you can already see his improvement, even against tougher competition.

Ewing has spoken very positively about several of Georgetown’s players, Pickett in particular, and I think that his combination of discipline and encouragement has inspired his players to play without fear and work to expand their skill sets. That’s a testament to his coaching and a bright sign for the future. Pickett in particular could be an absolute terror in the Big East by the time he’s a junior or senior.

With a couple more pieces, Georgetown can compete for the NCAA Tournament next year.

Is it possible that this take is merely the result of the usual delusion that comes from an exciting pair of wins? Absolutely. Still, I think that the Hoyas have shown dramatic improvement in these past few weeks, and I expect that to continue.

One of the most frustrating things about the past few seasons was a seeming lack of player development. Players were not making the customary improvements that college players typically make over the course of their careers. This season, Pickett, Blair, Derrickson, and Govan have shown dramatic improvements over last year and even the beginning of this season. Derrickson in particularly has been unstoppable, and as a senior he could be even more of a force.

Georgetown has been competitive with every Big East team outside of Villanova, an absolute powerhouse and in my opinion the best team in the country. Add a few more talented players, and I think we could see a team that is solidly in the middle of the pack in the Big East, and therefore on the bubble of an NCAA Tournament berth.