While the Georgetown Hoyas have been picked by various media outlets as a likely tournament-team based on returning four starters, overlooking the 7+ new faces on the way to a predicted conference basement finish has become a new pastime. Keeping under-the-radar is one thing, but “fake news” like this is another.
Most recently, Sports Illustrated followed a very fine selection of Georgetown as the number-three most likely program to end a March-Madness-drought by saying, “Without any splashy transfers or impact recruits, Georgetown’s best bet for making the tournament is facilitating the development of its young core.” Fans know who will lead this team, but those familiar with BIG EAST Preseason Honorable Mention honoree, Omer Yurtseven, and other newcomers, might beg to differ regarding potential impact.
NCAA tournament droughts for major programs range from Rutgers (1991) to a host of schools that haven't danced since 2016. Who will change that in 2019-20? https://t.co/fsZGg4CQFc— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 17, 2019
It is undoubtedly a symptom of the preseason hype train to focus on the returning top talent over bench depth as the engines for successful seasons. For instance, Seton Hall is picked by the BIG EAST coaches to win the conference, lead by their Preseason Player of the Year, Myles Powell. Marquette loses the Hauser brothers but with a first-team honoree (and last year’s Player of the Year), Markus Howard, is still forecast to finish fourth.
Likewise, with returning sophomores James Akinjo and Mac McClung, many pundits acknowledge that the Hoyas may have one of the best back-courts in the conference (or further) but aren’t willing to stretch that into a prediction of Georgetown to finish close to last year’s third-place tie. They call Josh LeBlanc a high-energy double-double machine but won’t let that affect their power rankings. Let’s face it, they see Jessie Govan’s 20 points per game vanishing and make the easy, lazy analysis.
This is all to say that the Hoyas are, once again, underdogs in the national media—which is fine. But with BIG EAST fans unconsciously adopting these published outlooks with less than 20 days before the start of the season, perhaps a reminder is due: there are seven new players who expect to make a splash this season.
Omer Yurtseven - In 2018, this 7-footer from Turkey was named to the third team All-ACC. Never mind that he’s preseason honorable mention this year, apparently according to pundits, transferring to the BIG EAST and training for the year-in-residency is detrimental because this pro-level talent is just not “splashy” enough. While Ewing may have tried to hide Yurtseven’s splashiness in the Bahamas with limited minutes (perhaps more because of the score or to get younger guys more time), plenty of positive feedback on rebounding and defense has Yurtseven on track to continue his development since we last saw him in the film room. Comparisons to Govan aside for now, Yurtseven is a highly skilled low post player and has very nice hook and jump shots. After a year watching form the bench and practicing, he looks to make a splash for Georgetown in the low post, before playing at the next level.
Terrell Allen - Another impact player we were shown in the film room, the 6’3” grad-transfer has been a starting point guard at Drexel and UCF—including a nice tournament run on a top-25 team last year. In the Bahamas, fans saw Allen work as point guard as well as part of a three-guard offense. He is comfortable with pace, pick-and-rolls, lobs, defense, and hitting open looks. Coach Dawkins and UCF are certainly impacted by their loss of him. No one has been quite able to pinpoint the exact reasons why someone as talented as Allen would leave, but his DMV homecoming is welcome by Hoya fans and his defense is lauded by Ewing.
Galen Alexander - When Assistant Coach Kirby recruited Galen Alexander as a member of LSU’s staff in 2017 he was a 4-star athlete ranked 79th by ESPN. The 6’6” forward was strong and athletic back then and it’s doubtful that his time collecting double-doubles (17.2 PPG, 52.9% FG, 34.9% 3PT, 8.4 rebounds per game) at Jones County Junior College slowed him down. Based on Alexander’s action in Kenner League and the Bahamas, he’s got a nice shot for open threes, can finish at the rim, and has a nose for rebounds. Several Kenner observers thought he made a strong case to start at the wing position, but that newly deep position won’t likely sort itself out until January. He’s coming to the Hoyas immediately eligible and with two years left after his time in LSU and JCJC, but it was only a short time that a handful of very good programs were calling him an “impact recruit.”
Qudus Wahab - Patrick Ewing may occasionally mispronounce this Nigerian Nightmare’s last name (mixing it up with Coach Waheed) but Qudus Wahab headlines another strong freshman class brought in by Ewing’s staff. When Wahab committed, the Washington Post did a story and mentioned that “Wahab is ranked the No. 7 overall prospect in Virginia for class of 2019, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.” Wahab announced his intent even after two centers were committed, solidifying Ewing’s success in recruiting the local center to Big Man U. His offensive skills look to be college-ready, even at Ewing’s faster pace. Those who have watched Wahab, so far, see a solid player who may back-up Yurtseven in cases of foul trouble at first but carve an impactful role in the latter half and beyond.
Myron Gardner - The 4-star, 6’6” forward out of Detroit may have been in the deep end with LaMelo Ball and others at Spire Academy, but his splash level should be considered significant on his own. In the Kenner League, Gardner was often deemed by observers as a surprise with his versatility and tenacity. The summer league game is well-suited for someone like Gardner who can create his own shot and clean up on rebounds. He appears to be a tough player and fans expect him to get a technical foul or two over the course of... well, November. I’m reminded of one specific drive in the Bahamas exhibitions where he effortlessly elevated for a dunk with speed and purpose and I finally bought into the Jabril Trawick comparisons. Gardner will make several splashes this season, one way or another.
Timothy Ighoefe - This titan from NBA Africa is clearly not splashy enough for SI. According to 247 Sports’ announcement, “[t]he 6’10” big man has a 7’7.5” wingspan, an 8’11” standing reach, and a 10’11” one-step vertical, according to statistics from the 2018 NBA G-League Player Invitational that Ighoefe took part in in August” 2018. “Big Tim” is tall, strong, and his game is still unknown. Witnessing he and Wilson in line at the Leavey Center’s Chick-fil-A last month, I agree with the Bahamas announcers in thinking that at the very least they will intimidate getting off the bus. His size cannot help but make an impact.
Malcolm Wilson - Another big man, the 6’11” Malcolm Wilson’s strengths are his speed on the break and the quickness of his second jump. Billed as a 3-star, top-150ish player, Wilson will be fighting for minutes—do not be surprised if he earns them, especially on the defensive end as he averaged 10 rebounds and over 6 blocks per game last season. Most eyewitnesses are hoping he bulks up, but his current floor-level looks to be above Roy Hibbert’s freshman year. If you’re sitting in the front rows at Kente One Arena be ready to catch his rejections and be sure to wear a poncho as Wilson makes his splash.
Attendees of the Open Practice have mentioned (recruited) freshman walk-on Chuma Azinge as a guard with solid potential. While the online roster is not updated yet (why?), Azinge is certainly featured in the 2019-20 Media Guide. The 6’3” California athlete was an NEPSAC Honorable Mention honoree is his post-graduate year at Choate Rosemary Hall last season.
While this team will certainly be led by the sophomores, depth will determine if Georgetown improves from last year. Having the chance to ask Patrick Ewing about how the new-found depth will help this team with pace, he said pace is an important part of what they do, having fresh legs will certainly help, and he identified several new guys as each bringing something to help areas in need of improvement—chiefly, defense. These 6+ new additions were recruited specifically to make an impact on this team from day one.
Put another way, several of Georgetown’s losses under Ewing came from running out of gas and not being able to answer the opponent's final run. Anyone who has watched the Hoyas run knows they can put up 70 points against any team in the nation. If Patrick Ewing can utilize his team’s longer bench to get key stops and limit opponent’s runs, especially during stretches when the starters are on the bench, this team will make a big splash and everyone will notice the impact of the new recruits.