UPDATE: Mac McClung to transfer. This post jinxed it.
With the Georgetown Hoyas picking up a commitment from guard T.J. Berger last night, and thus filling the presumed last available scholarship, fans are wondering if the 2020-21 Georgetown roster is finally set—that is, if we even have sports come next November.
In an interview with the Washington Post on Monday, head coach Patrick Ewing was asked about recruiting and the roster, and whether there a position you’re trying to fill. Ewing responded, “You’ll know when we figure it out. Top secret.” Does Berger have the secret sauce? Perhaps.
If you like really smart guards that can play the 1 or 2 and shoot 45% from 3, you’ll like him.— Jonathan Guarente (@jdgbasketball) May 13, 2020
For a long time, fans have been clamoring for a disciplined lead guard in the vein of Jonathan Wallace, Markel Starks, and Jagan Mosely. Personally, I enjoy seeing the staff go after the Chris Wrights, Jason Clarks, and even the Akinjos of the guard world, but there is always room on my team for an intelligent, hard-working leader on the floor and in the locker room, especially if he is 6’4” and has a nice shot. He’ll find a way to contribute sooner rather than later.
Still, adding another guard at this point begs some questions about the roster.
Here is what the expected roster looks like:
- Jamorko Pickett (F) 6’8”
- Jahvon Blair (G) 6’4”
- Jalen Harris (G) 6’2”
- Chudier Bile (F) 6’6”
- Mac McClung (G) 6’2”
- Qudus Wahab (C) 6’11”
- Malcolm Wilson (C) 6’11”
- Timothy Ighoefe (C) 6’11”
- Dante Harris (G) 6’
- Jamari Sibley (F) 6’8”
- Tyler Beard (G) 6’2”
- Kobe Clark (G/F) 6’6”
- T.J. Berger (G) 6’4”
T.J. Berger (CG) joins a freshman class of Jamari Sibley (F), Tyler Beard (G), Kobe Clark (G/F), and Dante Harris (G). Ewing also brought in Arkansas graduate transfer Jalen Harris (PG), and grad transfer Chudier Bile (PF). There is absolutely plenty for fans to get excited about with this class.
The question will always be whether the freshmen get on the floor enough to make an impact. Ewing told WaPo, “[a]ll the recruits, we’re going to expect great, great things out of them. … We need all of them to play well for us and add to the core that we’re bringing back.” Clearly a flavor of coach-speak, there is some truth when 5 out of 13 available athletes are freshmen (and 7 new guys total). One might think that, with the pandemic and worries of the season (or school) being cancelled, that coaches are looking beyond this season towards 2022, but Ewing added two grad-transfers in this crew. Ewing apparently still wants to win now.
Having 10+ “horses” seems to be Ewing’s strategy—particularly with regard to speed of play and defense. Ewing has implemented a high-paced offense, but limited bench has slowed his expected installation of long stretches of full-court pressure. With the skeleton crew last year, Ewing stated that everything from defense to practice intensity had to be toned down massively. I see lots of running in their futures.
This upcoming season, fans will almost definitely see a return of the “line changes” from early last season out of the gates, and it may take a while for the coach to settle into his rotations. This might be worrisome as last year saw (apparently) defensive-focused lineups look stagnant on offense, and the starting five playing matador defense. While the post-November personnel limitations may have increased team chemistry on the floor, confidence was also boosted.
A short leash on a deep bench may not be conducive to confidence for the “core” or the new guys. Long stretches of play may be needed to see how these new players will fit in and thrive. Is Jamari Sibley a DaJuan Summers or an Isaac Copeland? Is Tyler Beard a Jabril Trawick or a Vee Sanford? Can Ewing get them enough minutes to see what they have?
Guards - Out of necessity last season, Ewing ran a lot of 3-guard lineups. There are 40 minutes for each of PG and SG, and maybe 20 minutes of SF—that’s 100 minutes to split for
Mac McClung (30 min), Jahvon Blair (20 min), Jalen Harris (20 min), Tyler Beard (10 min), Dante Harris (10 min), T.J. Berger (10 min), and maybe Kobe Clark. That’s a lot of guard competition. Jalen Harris is not expected to shoot much, but was brought in as a speedy distributing guard to keep a spot warm for Beard, Harris, Berger, or whomever steps up. Of course, the guard situation would change should McClung stay in the draft transfer, but that’s a bunch of points and quality (offensive) minutes that would have to be replaced with players of limited collegiate experience. Blair picked up the load last year with the injuries and, as a senior, JB may be entitled to a nice share of minutes and field goal attempts from the get-go. Without expecting overtime each game, I see minutes competition for guards, especially Beard, Dante Harris, Kobe Clark, and Berger, to be tough.
Wings - I expect Jamorko Pickett to get the only non-guard wing minutes, with about 10-15 minutes as a SF, but perhaps Jamari Sibley and Kobe Clark gets some run here. This role may be defensive-match-up-based, but having 6+ guards on the team likely indicates smaller lineups with some of your 6’2”-6’4” guys playing wing, just to get a taste of the show.
Power Forward - Ewing likely wants to keep his 4-year player, Jamorko Pickett, on the floor and this might be the best option for him. He prefers to play the 3, and does create defensive mismatches there, but there’s just too many guards. It’s tough to bring in a graduate transfer like the 6’6” Chudier Bile and not give him 20 minutes per game. Likewise, the goal with your highest rated freshman recruit, Jamari Sibley, is minutes, so Ewing will have to experiment ways to get the forwards on the floor together.
Centers - Everyone is optimistic of what Qudus Wahab can contribute on both ends. The Hoyas will certainly miss Omer Yurtseven, but the game moved at a nice speed with Wahab and there were far more pick-and-rolls. A guy who likes to run, Wahab’s floor-time ceiling may be his fouls, so his 20- or 25-minute games will be spelled by appearances of Timothy Ighoefe and Malcolm Wilson. While Wilson red-shirted last season, Ighoefe was forced into service and showed glimpses of quality play. Whether Wilson can move to the second chair may depend on quickness and stamina to see how the young 7-footer splits the remaining 15-20 minutes with Ighoefe. A worst-case scenario for those two may be if Chudier Bile and Jamorko Pickett steal some small-ball-center minutes to get them on the court together with three quicker guards.
Georgetown fans absolutely love Mac McClung, but some are growing a little worried that his NBA aspirations may be interfering with the stability of Ewing’s roster preparations. The coach and guard were clearly not on the same page the other week regarding McClung’s potential to return to the Hilltop. After McClung’s agent Tweeting, Ewing walked back his comment saying “Maybe I spoke too soon.” Was it “too soon” or his decision just misunderstood? Hopefully Ewing has enough information to proceed with his planning [Now he does].
ICYMI: Q&A: Patrick Ewing on Georgetown recruiting, Mac McClung and ‘The Last Dance’https://t.co/ySPlC3v9FU— Kareem Copeland (@kareemcopeland) May 12, 2020
If McClung stays, he could theoretically carry a BIG EAST team like Markus Howard or Myles Powell did last year. Adding two grad transfers indicates Ewing is in “win now” mode and his statement on McClung coming back points to optimism. Mix in the potential to have endorsement deals as a college athlete and there is ample reason for McClung to come back to Georgetown, thrive, and go pro after a solid run in the conference and beyond.
Without McClung, this team may have enough athletes to compete, including four or five new guards, but this team looks more like Ewing year #1 than his year #2 squad (or the hype ahead of year #3). Vying for 6th place with Pickett and Blair carrying the bulk of the scoring load is not ideal, but it opens room for young guys to step-up.
Still, looking at the roster and the recruiting buzz, one has to worry if Ewing is trying to fill spots.
Adding Anyone Else?
The Washington Post’s Kareem Copeland asked Ewing for his thoughts on how he’s going to fill two open scholarships and Ewing did not correct him. Whether it was out of politeness or mistake, the scholarship table indicates that a scholarship is only available if McClung remains in the draft.
As of May, much of the news regarding Georgetown and Ewing’s interest and offers involve recruits from the class of 2021 and beyond. However, there is still at least one guard who seems to be considering Georgetown as an option. I sincerely doubt any GU commit is a “walk-on” or eager to red-shirt, but maybe there are other options.
Blessed to see 21! Final 2. pic.twitter.com/mnlMhgsv3j— Jaylen Rutherford (@Jaylen_R20) May 12, 2020
One hates to say it, but transfers are a harsh reality of modern college basketball. Under Ewing we’ve seen a few transfers and a few dismissals. For instance, former 4-star recruit Grayson Carter found a home in UT-Arlington around the same time (April 2019) that Myron Gardner and Terrell Allen were added to the roster.
I don’t want to further encourage transfer discussion, but what if Moussa Cisse shows up to the dorms with his luggage as a reclassified 2020 recruit? I would think that a couple fan-favorite GU players might press that transfer portal request button real quick. But who knows.
Does Georgetown have a legit shot at five-star Moussa Cisse after making his final six? @coreyevans_10 isn't sure about the Hoyas chances:— Rivals (@Rivals) May 7, 2020
From @RivalsHoops: https://t.co/zHJzbzfgQE@coreyevans_ pic.twitter.com/jYMDjYepwm
Georgetown and Ewing were linked to talking with 25+ graduate transfers and several more late-season recruits. The way I see it there are two options: (a) the last few additions were carefully evaluated and vetted by the staff to be true fits as Hoyas or (b) the staff panicked and added a handful of new “just another guys” to a 13-man roster. I’m not sure there’s an in-between, but I’ll even give the staff credit if we see role players and developmental prospects. And I will undoubtedly suffer a broken heart if any of these guys transfers, but it’s hard not to expect a probable defection from a random group of 5-7 players in the modern college game.
Ewing is looking at having four or five open scholarships next season, depending on when McClung does go pro. There will likely be no seniors in 2021-2022. Having 5 guys turnover each year is not ideal for rebuilding a big-time basketball school.
Some of the top college programs are avoiding the one-and-done route and—surprise—trying to develop players over 3-4 years. Getting top young athletes to buy-in, work hard, and be patient is difficult but crucial if Georgetown wants to compete in the BIG EAST and beyond. Adding recruits who appreciate such goals leads to better team chemistry. Smaller rotations lead to happier teammates. Happier teammates leads to better recruiting, if it doesn’t directly equate to wins.
Ewing is right in saying that recruiting is the life-blood of any college program, but I’m not sure quantity cannot deter quality. Reloading each year with a handful of guys who are competitive BIG EAST players is nearly impossible due to size. It also means you’re losing people you’ve invested time and coaching in.
This new group of freshman could be something special, but adding three point guards—a year after adding three 6’11” centers—will always give fans room to doubt a recruiting strategy. Still, Ewing is right as “only time will tell.”
There might be another commitment any minute now. I hope they’re all running 5 miles a day to keep their edge.