The Georgetown men’s basketball season has been a rollercoaster ride of inconsistency and adversity through four games of conference play. With high hopes entering the campaign, Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) and his squad, featuring sophomore trio Mac McClung, James Akinjo, and Josh LeBlanc, along with highly praised senior transfer Omer Yurtseven, aimed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
Despite these expectations, Georgetown (11-6, 1-3 Big East) looked far from spectacular to start. In the season opener, the Hoyas had to surmount a 19-point second-half comeback to knock off a mediocre Mount St. Mary’s team.
Following a similarly unimpressive win against Central Arkansas, Georgetown fell flat and lost considerably to Penn State in a Gavitt Tipoff Game.
With a 4-1 record entering the 2k Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden, uncertainty surrounded the Blue and Gray as it would potentially face two ranked teams. Against No. 22 Texas, the Hoyas rose to the occasion and won by 16, shooting 50% from the field behind 19 points from McClung.
In its matchup against the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils a day later, the Hoya offense operated smoothly again, holding their own for much of the game. Turnovers, missed open shots and bad calls down the stretch, however, led to an 81-73 loss. Many fans hoped Yurtseven’s 21-point second-half performance would be a sign of things to come.
On Dec. 2, three days after a four-point loss to UNC Greensboro, the administration announced breaking news: Akinjo and LeBlanc would be leaving the men’s basketball team immediately to enter the transfer portal. The news came amid civil complaints of burglary, theft and sexual harassment involving LeBlanc and two other men’s players, later revealed to be junior forward Galen Alexander and freshman forward Myron Gardner.
Many thought the loss of Akinjo, the team’s second-leading scorer, along with a major defensive and transition presence in LeBlanc, would be a devastating blow. To make matters worse, the university went on to announce the departures of Gardner and Alexander on Dec. 12, both of whom had been listed in the civil complaints with LeBlanc.
With only seven scholarship players left on the roster, many expected the Hoyas to flounder. Instead, the Blue and Gray played some of their best basketball of the year behind McClung in the final games of the nonconference schedule. McClung lived up to his star potential in that stretch, taking over the end of the first half against former Big East rival Syracuse with 26 points on the day for a convincing home win.
Over the six-game stretch, McClung averaged 19.8 points per game and the team shot 49.6% from the field. What the team seemed to lose in depth, they gained in defined role allocation that allowed for McClung’s success and gave players like graduate student guard Terrell Allen and freshman center Qudus Wahab more time on the court.
With a respectable 10-3 finish in nonconference play, the Hoyas kept their heads high entering their Big East opener against a Providence team that had struggled at the opening of the season, losing to multiple unspectacular opponents. With McClung sitting out due to an eye injury suffered against American University, the Hoya offense fell short, managing only 23 points in the first half and finishing with a 76-60 loss in a game which saw their deficit grow to as many as 33 points. Despite a blowout win over St. John’s, double-digit losses to Seton Hall and Villanova, coupled with the Providence game, left the Hoyas’ season forecast more bleak than before conference play.
Unfortunately, the rest of the season does not get easier. With a deeper 2018-19 squad, the Hoyas went 9-9 in conference play last season, and this season’s conference looks more dangerous, with nine of 10 teams sitting in the top 75 in the country in the Jan. 16 NET rankings.
The Hoyas have yet to face No. 2 Butler, nor No. 21 Villanova at home. Georgetown also will have to face Seton Hall again and play Xavier and Marquette twice, with the three teams all within the top 100 rankings. Looking ahead, Georgetown’s future does not look as promising as it once did when Ewing stepped on campus.
Shortly after the transfers of Akinjo and LeBlanc in December, ESPN 100 forward and Washington, D.C. native Terrance Williams announced his decommitment from Georgetown. Shortly afterward Williams committed to Michigan.
For Williams, the uncertainty over the program’s future outweighed the thought of succeeding in the short term for hometown fans.
Specifically, Georgetown may lose Yurtseven, who tested the NBA Draft waters when he played at North Carolina State. Many NBA Draft experts, including those at NBC Sports, felt Yurtseven had first-round NBA Draft potential following his sophomore season.
In 2020, Georgetown still has forward Jamari Sibley, an ESPN 100 and four-star recruit from Oak Hill Academy. Unranked point guard Dante Harris from Alcoa High School in Alcoa, Tenn. will also join Sibley.
The task is tall, however, to revamp the roster to compete in a star-studded Big East. Senior guard Jagan Mosely and Allen, who has started every game since Akinjo’s departure, are in their last season.
Ewing’s job security will also be in jeopardy if the team fails to make the NCAA Tournament this season. Ewing has done fairly well without much depth on the roster and in spite of the loss of four of his major recruits, but his time on the Hilltop was meant to return the program to the prominence of his playing career. Ewing’s three years as head coach, unlike his four in the 1980s, have been average.
Time will tell if the team can turn this season around with success in the bulk of Big East play.