This season’s Senior Day for the men’s basketball team (14-14, 7-8 Big East) will be a far cry from the Senior Day of last season — both in terms of where the team is this year and in terms of the seniors themselves. As Georgetown prepares to take on Butler (18-9, 7-8 Big East) on Saturday at Verizon Center, only one senior is slated to play significant minutes: guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
Senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes is out indefinitely with a broken hand, and guard Riyan Williams only sees spot minutes. However, despite the differences in each of their seasons, they have all contributed in their own ways throughout their Georgetown careers.
Riyan Williams, son of vaunted Georgetown player Reggie Williams, walked on to the team his junior year, and despite not playing much of the 2014-15 season, he has played in key moments this year. In Georgetown’s comeback win against Creighton on Jan. 26, Williams helped lead the full-court press against the Blue Jays in the final minutes, cementing an improbable 74-73 victory.
Williams, though he has often gone the entire game without seeing the floor, admirably comes in at the end of games and delivers on defense.
Hayes, while he must watch his final home game as a Hoya in a suit, has arguably been one of the best stories of the season.
Looking back on media day at the beginning of the season, the team, particularly Smith-Rivera, sung his praises.
“I’m excited for him and I know he’s going to take full advantage of his opportunity and he talks about people not recognizing him and what he brings to the table, and I told him, wait, they’ll see,” Smith-Rivera said.
After three years of hardly playing, Hayes broke out in the NCAA tournament at the end of 2014-15 season. Starting every game this season until his injury, Hayes notched impressive performances in many games, including debatably the most symbolically important game of the season against Syracuse. Hayes scored a career-high 21 points against the Hoyas’ fiercest rivals in one of the biggest wins of the season.
After breaking his wrist in practice right before Georgetown’s game against Providence (19-9, 7-8 Big East), Hayes’ story of redemption is on hold with no timetable for his return, but he still retains his captain position and leads the team vocally alongside Smith-Rivera.
The four-year veteran of the program and the sixth all-time leading scorer in Georgetown history, Smith-Rivera has been a staple in the Hoya offense since his freshman year — having gone from playing for a Georgetown team that was a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament to missing the tournament altogether to now leading the team on his own.
Smith-Rivera was expected to leave before the season began after declaring for the NBA draft. But upon his return to the Hoyas, the aspirations for the team skyrocketed and placed immense pressure on Smith-Rivera to lead Georgetown both on and off the court. He entered the season ready for that responsibility.
“Since my sophomore year I found out how I could be a leader in different ways, by example and when [my teammates] want to know about certain things, they come to me on the side instead of going to [Head Coach John Thompson III],” Smith-Rivera said during media day. “When you’re playing you may see different things out there, so as long as you make the right decision, he’ll be fine with it.”
Thompson has relied on the leadership of his seniors for much of this season, and on Saturday, they will celebrate their last home game, a rematch against Big East rival Butler.
In their earlier matchup this year, the Hoyas fell to the Bulldogs 87-76 after allowing a career-high 35 points to sophomore forward Kelan Martin. The Bulldogs shot an incredibly efficient 56 percent from inside the three-point line.
While the Hoyas did shoot 41 percent on their three-point attempts in the last time out against Butler, the rest of their offense was stagnant, shooting just 45 percent from inside the arc.
Now, coming off a blowout loss to No. 5 Xavier (25-3, 13-3 Big East) at home, Georgetown must find its offensive efficiency, at least to the level that it did at Butler.
“It’s more so about the guys making reads and making plays,” Thompson said about improvements to the team’s offense after the Xavier matchup. “We try to put them in different positions and they have to make plays. Xavier did a good job of making you think one thing was open and taking it away.”
In order to secure a win for the seniors, the Hoyas will need to read and react better and more rapidly, starting with Smith-Rivera.
In a season that has fallen below expectations, a win at home for fans of this year’s seniors who have followed this team since the 2012-13 season would at least end their time following the team on a positive note. Moreover, going into a two-game road trip to close the season, Georgetown needs a confidence-boosting win for the seniors, the fans and the entire team.
Tipoff is set for 12 p.m., and the game will be televised on CBS.