The Georgetown University men’s basketball team looks to build upon the strides made across the program last season, the team’s first playoff appearance under Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85). The team brings back a solid core as well as a host of new faces looking to integrate themselves into the roster as the Hoyas look to improve upon a fifth-place conference finish last season.
Ewing said his offseason preparations to incorporate the newest players in the system this summer mirrored previous summers, despite the new transfers.
“My approach wasn’t any different: trying to get them back in the gym more to try to develop their skill set and improve on what they have learned from previous years. And hopefully that will help them to get a jump,” Ewing said.
Ewing continued to single out individual players who he expects to improve significantly upon their 2018-19 performances.
“I expect for Jahvon to make a jump. I expect for Jamorko Pickett to make a jump. I expect both James, Mac and Josh to make a jump from what they accomplished last year,” Ewing said.
The Hoyas boast a returning core of sophomores, as three freshmen started the majority the Hoyas’ games. Sophomore guard Mac McClung returns this season after spending time this offseason with high-profile trainer Drew Hanlen and looks to improve his game on both sides of the ball. McClung finished last season with a strong 13.1 points per game, but should improve his assist total of 2.0 per game and his rebound total of 2.6 per game.
McClung’s partner in crime in the starting backcourt for this season is reigning Big East Freshman of the Year James Akinjo, who was second on the team with 13.4 points per game and among the conference’s leading passers in terms of volume, boasting 5.2 assists per game. He has to cut back on his 3.0 turnovers per game and improve his 34.9% shooting on 2-point field goals to become a more effective playmaker this season.
The third sophomore projected to be an opening-night starter is forward Josh LeBlanc, who returns to the Hilltop after an efficient freshman season. He finished last season shooting 63% from the field and racked up 7.3 rebounds per game despite his 6’7” frame, making him a double-double threat.
The team’s highest-profile newcomer is Turkish seven-footer, junior center Omer Yurtseven, who sat out last season because of the NCAA’s eligibility rules after transferring after his sophomore season at North Carolina State University. Against the stiffest competition in the country, the ACC, Yurtseven averaged 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds to go with 1.8 blocks per game.
The fifth spot of the starting lineup is less clear than the other four, with nearly everyone else in the playing rotation likely to start at some point in the season.
One candidate is the team’s lone senior in the rotation: guard Jagan Mosely, who finished last season with 3.1 points per game in an average of 18 minutes as a high-energy player with sound defensive decision making.
Another candidate is three-point specialist and junior guard Jahvon Blair, who began to develop a stronger court vision and passing ability last season. He should see more than the 12.5 minutes per game of action he saw last year. His game has undergone a makeover entering his junior season, according to Blair.
“Everything. I mean, shooting, communicating, leadership, defense. Everything just to be a better and more complete player,” Blair said in an interview with The Hoya. He continued to emphasize the need for him to make winning plays more frequently than last season as one of the veteran leaders.
Another key player in the Hoyas’ rotation this season is junior guard Jamorko Pickett, who made 23 starts last season, making contributions defensively with his long wingspan.
The next key player for the Hoyas will be junior Galen Alexander, a 6-foot-6-inch forward, who returns to Division 1 basketball after starting his career at Louisiana State University before playing a season at Jones County Junior College.
Qudus Wahab, a 6-foot-11-inch Nigerian center who played his high school basketball in Flint Hill, Va., is the freshman in the best position to make a major impact this year. He has a set of passing and scoring skills that are deep and complex for an 18-year-old center.
Terrell Allen, a 6-foot-3-inch graduate student who averaged 6.7 points at the University of Central Florida and has 96 Division 1 games under his belt, has the most Division 1 experience. Allen was confident in his leadership role for this season as a newcomer to the Hilltop but the player on the team with the most NCAA basketball experience.
“I just try to share the ball with everybody, just try to use my leadership. Like I said, this is my fifth year,” Allen said in an interview with The Hoya. “We have a great group of guys here, we have a great leader in coach Pat [Ewing], who teaches the right things in practice, so we just want to go out there execute what he shows us in practice.”
The Hoyas will face real tests early on as the large roster turnover leaves many question marks as to the Hoyas’ ability. On Thursday, Nov. 14, as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games, the Hoyas will play host to the Penn State Nittany Lions, who finished last season 14-18 overall and 7-13 in the Big Ten, a conference with even more high-powered teams than those in the Big East.
The Hoyas’ next big matchups will take place at the 2k Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 21 and 22. On the 21st, the Hoyas’ take on the reigning NIT champion Texas Longhorns. If the Hoyas win, they will play the winner of the University of California Bears and the Duke Blue Devils, with the losers squaring off on the 22nd.
The final key matchup of nonconference play will be the annual rivalry against Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange. The rivalry game takes place at home this year Dec. 14, which serves as a great break from finals studying for students. After a last-second loss in the Carrier Dome last season after the Hoyas blew a 15 point lead, Georgetown seeks revenge in this ancient Big East rivalry.
While Georgetown’s first home matchup of conference play is always a big deal, especially against a rival such as St. John’s, the weak forecast for the Red Storm sets the Martin Luther King weekend matchup with the Marquette Golden Eagles on Jan. 18 as the first high-profile game of conference play. Marquette, a team who, despite the shocking transfers of Sam and Joey Hauser, looks to compete for a March Madness bid led by senior point guard Markus Howard, the conference’s all-around best player who averaged 25 points per game last season.
The Hoyas’ will play two of the Big East’s elites in their final home games. On Sunday, March 1, Georgetown welcomes Xavier to the Hilltop. The Musketeers, who finished No. 5 in the Big East with 9-9 conference record, will return all of their prominent scorers this season. Senior Night, Saturday, March 7, will see the Hoyas take on the Villanova Wildcats, who had an extremely deep team last season.
With the Hoyas bringing back a strong core from the Class of 2022, upperclassmen leadership and a strong slate of transfers, the team’s likely improvement from last season will bring plenty of excitement to the Hilltop as fans await a potential return to March Madness. The Hoyas’ home games against Penn State, Syracuse, Marquette, Xavier and Villanova will make key differences to the Hoyas’ postseason chances, setting those matchups as the must-see home games of the 2019-20 season.