In Head Coach Patrick Ewing’s (CAS ’85) second year coaching on the Hilltop, the Georgetown men’s basketball program took a promising turn, but ultimately has more improvements to make before next season.
The Hoyas finished the 2018-19 season with an overall record of 19-14, including a 9-9 mark in Big East conference games, a significant improvement from two straight seasons of winning only five games in the conference.
The preseason was headlined by incoming freshmen guards Mac McClung and James Akinjo and freshman forward Josh LeBlanc, along with returning senior star center Jessie Govan.
After a 15-15 record last season, Hoya fans hoped for more out of the team in 2018-19, especially with Ewing recruiting the talents of McClung, Akinjo and LeBlanc. Georgetown brought in Ewing to steer the program in the right direction, and fans wanted the team to finally return to national prominence.
With the spotlight on the freshman trio and Govan, Georgetown’s stars showed their potential. Akinjo, McClung and LeBlanc were all named to the Big East all-freshman team as Akinjo took home Big East Freshman of the Year honors. The freshman guards provided Georgetown with its strongest backcourt play in recent memory, with Akinjo averaging 13.4 points per game and McClung bringing in 13.1 points per game.
LeBlanc also showed promise as a wing, averaging 9.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. This was the second year in Big East history that three freshmen from one team earned all-freshman team honors.
Ewing remarked on his young players’ growth throughout the year, with McClung improving his on-ball defense consistently throughout conference play and Akinjo gradually enhancing his shot selection.
“I’m proud of them,” Ewing said during media availability ahead of the team’s Big East tournament loss to Seton Hall. “They’ve all accomplished a lot this season and all grown significantly to now.”
Govan, who Ewing said before the season “needs to have a great year” for the team to be successful, shined for the Hoyas. Govan averaged a team-high 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game on his way to a spot on the All-Big East first team.
Govan also was recognized as a top-five finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award, and was named U. S. Basketball Writers Association All-District and National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District.
The team’s signature wins were against ranked rivals and were the first two ranked victories of Ewing’s coaching career. After losing to Villanova (26-10, 13-5 Big East) on Feb. 3, the Hoyas handled the Wildcats, ranked No. 17 at the time, 85-73, altering their season and giving Georgetown a realistic shot at the NCAA tournament for the first time in several years.
After splitting its next two games, Georgetown faced Marquette (24-10, 12-6 Big East) in Milwaukee with its slim NCAA tournament hopes on the line. The Hoyas went on to defeat the Golden Eagles 86-84, giving the team momentum heading into the postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden.
However, like so many times this season, Georgetown followed a key win with inconsistent play. The Blue and Gray lost to Seton Hall (20-14, 9-9 Big East) 73-57 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament March 14. While the Hoyas gained the opportunity for more postseason basketball in the NIT tournament, they fell to Harvard (19-12, 10-4 Ivy League) at home in McDonough Arena.
The Hoyas never won more than two Big East games in a row and lost six games by six points or less. However, the Hoyas led the conference in scoring and rebounding per game, emphasizing Ewing’s fast-paced play.
The team’s talent was evident and strong enough to compete with many of the top teams in the country. But Georgetown’s youth, inexperience and, ultimately, inconsistency frustrated Hoya fans who thought the team could finally return to March Madness.
Georgetown does have more hope for next season. While losing Govan, the Hoyas will return four of its five starters, including the freshman trio. Georgetown also will add redshirt junior center Ömer Yurtseven, who sat out this season because of NCAA transfer rules. Yurtseven was named All-ACC third team in his previous season with NC State.
“These guys have the program in the right direction,” Govan said prior to the Big East tournament.
To help fill the voids of Govan and senior center Trey Mourning, the Hoyas are bringing in three highly touted centers, including four-star recruit Qudus Wahab. Georgetown also will gain LSU transfer forward Galen Alexander, once a four-star recruit who played AAU basketball with LeBlanc.
Surely, this new crop of talent pairing with a more experienced Hoya lineup will bring even higher expectations for Georgetown next season. So, while this season will be remembered for inconsistency and what could have been, it may also be the one that turned the corner toward bringing back Hoya paranoia.
Hey — there’s always next year.