I tried to be professional in attending my first BIG EAST Media Day. James Akinjo, Mac McClung, and Omer Yurtseven were certainly “all business.” I’m just a humble lawyer/blog contributor, but I think I succeeded in following their lead—my excitement probably wasn’t totally apparent until I chatted up Athletic Director Lee Reed about Hoya Madness (spoiler: no musical act this year).
Interviewing the players and coach of the Georgetown Hoyas was incredible, as was the entire BIG EAST Media Day. And while the predicted sixth-place finish stung a little, Akinjo and Yurtseven’s preseason honors helped restore optimism.
One thing to remember with this year’s iteration of the BIG EAST (the 40th, as Commissioner Val Ackerman reminded those in attendance) is that even though Georgetown is returning four starters, the conference as a whole brought back 34 out of last year’s fifty starters. Those 3.4 developing athletes per team are pretty good and Georgetown is not the only team in the league that will be deep.
Ewing is improving as a public speaker and he certainly had many of his familiar responses prepared. The questions from reporters typically followed a pattern: how are these sophomores going to do? Can Yurtseven fill Jessie Govan’s shoes? What is the biggest hurdle for the team? Who are these 6 newcomers? Those of us who live and breath Georgetown Basketball have heard responses to many of these questions and Ewing, for the most part, parroted his prior answers.
Patrick Ewing on Georgetown’s depth pic.twitter.com/hR91ez2dNN— Philadelphia Hoyas (@PhillyHoyas) October 10, 2019
There is no doubt Ewing is excited about the potential for Akinjo, McClung, and LeBlanc and was very happy with how they performed and grew last year, but he wants more. Ewing reiterated that they are a year older and that he expects better decisions and better results. As a coach, he is hard on his guys and always asks for more. However, Ewing admits that this team is still young and he is waiting to see what happens and how they compete when they have to face other teams.
Patrick Ewing on Georgetown’s youth (still) pic.twitter.com/y29jqSo4LN— Philadelphia Hoyas (@PhillyHoyas) October 10, 2019
I asked Ewing about pace and he said he wants to get it faster. He acknowledged that the “depth” he referred to earlier will hopefully allow it.
I asked about defense and Ewing said he wanted to bring in guys who are defense-minded. I reiterated and asked about development of defensive skills for the carry-overs from last year and he said it’s a work-in-progress and that every day they are working on team defense and communication. Ewing believes those guys have the skills to be good defenders, eventually.
Here’s John Fanta and Steve Lavin with Patrick Ewing (at 3:22:30):
Even when James Akinjo is interviewing he is practicing for what it takes to get to the “next level.” I approached Akinjo early when he and Ewing were alone at the table for a bit and congratulated him on his Preseason Second Team honors. He was very grateful and quickly turned the conversation to the team.
: The #BIGEASThoops Preseason All-Conference Second Team!— BIG EAST Conference (@BIGEAST) October 10, 2019
Heron and Figueroa for the Johnnies. Gillespie and Samuels for the Cats. Paul Reed. James Akinjo.
We're in for quite a year in @BIGEASTMBB. pic.twitter.com/QbPmWM5oeO
He came to life discussing the Bahamas trip and spoke highly of growing as a team. Akinjo was quick to reinforce Ewing’s thoughts on depth, politely saying that many of the current bench players could be starters nearly anywhere. I asked him about the new three-point line and he smiled. He likes the distance and he really thinks it will help open up space.
One thing that was clear with James speaking about working on his three-point shot was that his practices are certainly to help win the next GU game, but they are also to help him get to “the next level.” Georgetown’s practice courts may have the NBA three-point line for visiting NBA teams practicing but that deeper arc is primarily there for James Akinjo.
Akinjo will respond well to the honors, with confidence, and there’s really no stopping him from continuing his growth.
After the obligatory jokes about being sick of seeing him in a suit and tie rather than a jersey, Yurtseven was also eager to talk about the team, especially his frontcourt-mates. Yurtseven likes having three other guys his size—sorry, almost his size, as he claims to be the biggest, if not the tallest—to work on post moves with for at least an hour before every practice. He mentioned the Bahamas’ sunsets as a special non-basketball part of the trip and sharing them with teammates. These guys like each other—which is important with a finite amount of minutes available on an apparently deep team.
Yurtseven has something to prove. He wants to post up, he wants to shoot more threes (not a whole lot more), and he wants to win. He likes defense and they’ve been working on defense often. He watched a lot last year and sees similarities and differences between the BIG EAST and the ACC. He’s eager to get on the court.
McClung’s “yes sir, no sir” politeness is well known and his manners and respect (much like Akinjo and Yurtseven’s) were impressive. As expected, Mac McClung had to field questions all morning about his part-time life as an internet sensation, as well as discuss last season’s ups and downs.
Mac McClung on the level of competition pic.twitter.com/Vbdg2ZMjsy— Philadelphia Hoyas (@PhillyHoyas) October 10, 2019
When I got to speak with Mac McClung we discussed several similar topics that Yurtseven and Akinjo has discussed including how much the team bonded in the Bahamas. I mentioned to McClung that we saw he was working with some trainers and he said he essentially reworked his whole shooting form and more.
Mac McClung on playing with James Akinjo pic.twitter.com/kdVFwymwCD— Philadelphia Hoyas (@PhillyHoyas) October 10, 2019
I also asked McClung about the weight-room, saying he was less like a linebacker, and he said that he wasn’t necessarily too bulky but he has changed his diet and thinks it gives him more speed and flexibility. He, too, is thinking about the next level.
Here’s Mac McClung with Pat O’Keefe (and new, noted Hoya-father, Ed Cooley) (3:11:55).
Athletic Director Lee Reed
Director Reed was very excited and we spent some time speaking about several different topics regarding athletics on the Hilltop. Reed did tell me that there would be no musical act at Hoya Madness tomorrow, but he thinks that players appearing will satisfy the students and fans plenty.
He gushed about the level of competition for the non-conference schedule and discussed some considerations with scheduling generally. With a BIG10 game and a Big 12 game, along with the hope to perenially schedule Syracuse and the addition of two UConn games each year, scheduling is tough. Reed said Georgetown is very much in the mix for top-level multi-team tournaments in the next few years hopes to make some announcements.
Reed also hinted that some more Kente may be appearing on Georgetown uniforms soon.
That’s all for now, but as the real journalists put pen to paper, other quotes and insights are likely coming.