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Starks, Hoyas need to overcome departure of Otto Porter
This preview and more on Georgetown and the Big East are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
Georgetown Facts & Figures
Last season: 25-7 (14-4 Big East)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: John Thompson III (209-89 at Georgetown)
Big East projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
Normally, when a team that won 25 games and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament returns all but one player, it can be expected to be ranked among the top five or 10 teams in the country. That isn’t the case with Georgetown, though — because that one departing player is Otto Porter, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and a consensus All-American last season.
“He’s ready,” coach John Thompson III said when Porter declared he was leaving early for the draft. “A lot of people come into this — a lot of players — with the notion of ‘I want to leave as soon as possible.’ They enter college, they walk in the door thinking about walking out the door. That has never been the case with him.”
Of course, the next step is finding a replacement for Porter. Here’s a hint: It won’t be easy.
In an ideal world, Greg Whittington would have replaced Porter this season. However, the 6-9 Whittington — who was ruled academically ineligible for the second half of last season — suffered a knee injury in June that could jeopardize his return.
“Greg will return when he is 100 percent healthy,” Thompson III said at the time. “At this point, there is no specific timetable for his return.”
If Whittington is forced to miss the entire season, Georgetown’s frontcourt will go from one predicated on length and versatility to one highlighted by strength and bulk.
The big addition up front is UCLA transfer Josh Smith. When focused and on the court, Smith is one of the better low-post scorers around — but that didn’t happen often enough with the Bruins. He was always in foul trouble, and he couldn’t stay on the floor due to conditioning. If he’s in shape, Smith will be a big boost for the Hoyas in the post when he joins at the midseason point.
Another newcomer to keep an eye on is freshman Reggie Cameron, who will help fill Porter’s shoes. A native of New Jersey, the 6-7 Cameron is one of the best incoming shooters in the country.
Thompson III also brings back two starters: Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins. Lubick is a veteran who rebounds, sets screens and isn’t opposed to doing the dirty work around the basket. Hopkins adds a different dimension due to his ability to pass out of the post.
Moses Ayegba is raw, but he provides depth and strength.
Although Porter received most of the national attention for the Hoyas last season, Markel Starks was no slouch on the perimeter. He went through bouts of inconsistency, but Starks playing well generally meant that Georgetown was playing well. He’s a strong guard who can create for himself and others, and he is adept at initiating the Hoyas’ offense. With Porter gone, Starks will have to take on a bigger offensive and leadership role.
One player primed for a breakout offensive season is sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The Indianapolis native came into college with a reputation as a guy who could get points, and he didn’t disappoint, especially over the second half of the season. He will have more responsibility this season, and his ability to make shots from behind the arc and create his own looks off the bounce will be a major plus.
Jabril Trawick is the starter on the wing. Trawick isn’t a prolific scorer, but he is a very good defender and athlete who uses his strength effectively.
There isn’t much depth at point guard, but Aaron Bowen and Stephen Domingo should see some minutes on the wings. Bowen is athletic and can defend, while Domingo has deep range..
Both newcomers will help the frontcourt tremendously. Josh Smith was an effective player at times for UCLA, and his ability to score with his back to the basket is a plus. Reggie Cameron is a smooth 3-point shooter who is at his best when used as a pick-and-pop power forward of sorts. He lacks quickness, but he should find plenty of opportunities in Georgetown’s half-court offense.
Factoid: 2-5. Georgetown is only 2–5 in its last five NCAA Tournament appearances. Making matters worse, the Hoyas were a No. 2 or 3 seed in four of those five tournaments. They need to win when it counts.
Georgetown might have been the Big East favorite had Whittington not been injured. As it stands, the Hoyas have some question marks heading into the season. Porter provided so many things at both ends of the floor and will be impossible to replace. Smith-Rivera will have to be a consistent scoring option on the perimeter, but someone has to step up in the frontcourt. The answer could be Cameron, who creates matchup problems with his ability to step out and shoot. It could also be Smith — if he stays on the floor.
As always, Thompson III will have this team defending at a high level, and his offensive system will also win some games. How far this team goes could depend on its ability to make plays when it matters. The Hoyas’ struggles in March are becoming more and more noticeable.