When Chris Wright and Austin Freeman enrolled at Georgetown, the Hoyas had just re-emerged as a national power after a run to the Final Four. Now, on their way out the door, the program has lost three consecutive NCAA tournament games to mid-major, double-digit seeds, sandwiching a first-round NIT loss.
Georgetown basketball is at a crossroads — and crossroads happen fairly often in college athletics. Head Coach John Thompson III will likely have to navigate through a year or two of rebuilding, a process that will begin this offseason, when, to borrow a word he used after the VCU loss, he will do some “introspection.”
But before moving forward and thinking about the program’s future, it’s important to assess the Wright-Freeman years.
We’ll start with numbers: Over the past four seasons, the Hoyas went 88-43. They went 40-5 in nonconference games, 42-30 in Big East games, 5-4 in the Big East tournament and 1-3 in the NCAA tournament. Their regular season Big East finishes were first, 12th, eighth and eighth.
Take away the 2007-2008 season — when Wright missed 18 games due to injury and Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace ran the show — and it’s 60-37 overall, 30-4 in nonconference games, 27-27 in Big East games, 3-3 in the Big East tournament and 0-2 in the NCAA tournament.
After their four years, Freeman is seventh on the all-time scoring list and Wright is the sixth-best assist man in Georgetown history. Here are their career per-game statistics:
Freeman: 13.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 49.8 percent field-goal shooting and 38 percent three-point shooting.
Wright: 12.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 45.9 percent field-goal shooting and 34 percent three-point shooting.
With those numbers in mind, consider the atmosphere surrounding the program when Wright and Freeman arrived as freshmen and compare it to the state of Georgetown basketball at this very moment.
As the Hoyas tipped off against William and Mary on Nov. 10, 2007, Thompson had the core of a Final Four team (minus Jeff Green) and two McDonald’s high school All-Americans on board. One of them — Wright — was the first three-time all-Met selection since the great Adrian Dantley accomplished the feat 30 years prior, and he averaged 30.5 points per game as a senior at St. John’s. The other — Freeman — was the first graduate of famed DeMatha High School to choose Georgetown in 20 years.
At Midnight Madness that same year, Greg Monroe committed to Georgetown. Hibbert, Wallace and company had made the program nationally relevant again, and with three standout recruits poised to take the reins, there were reasonable expectations that Wright and Freeman would be key members of the group that would take Georgetown basketball to the next level.
Fast forward to today, and it is clear that the leap did not happen. Over the last three seasons, Wright and Freeman played major roles, and Georgetown went 31-4 in November and December but just 29-33 from January on, including a 5-9 record in March, the month made famous by college basketball and St. Patrick.
Each of those three teams nabbed memorable wins along the way — victories over No. 2 UConn on the road, Duke in front of the president and Syracuse at the Carrier Dome stand out — and also lost games they had no business losing. Wright and Freeman played in two Big East tournament championship games and each earned all-conference honors.
To be sure, the majority of the Wright-Freeman years were a roller coaster ride, both for the program and for the two guards individually. Wright missed 18 games as a freshman and three games as a senior due to injury. Freeman battled inconsistency his sophomore season, has had to cope with diabetes and hurt his left ankle this year, an injury that clearly had something to do with his career-ending 7-for-52 streak from beyond the arc.
Despite the ups and downs, Wright and Freeman will surely go down as two of the best guards in Georgetown history. Their numbers speak for themselves, and even though their teams have had crash-and-burn finishes, they still won a lot of games and spent the better portion of their four years in the national rankings.
To put things in perspective, Wright and Freeman get the focus here because they were the Hoyas’ two most accomplished players from 2007 to 2011. Other factors — like their teammates’ performance, scheduling, coaching and tournament draws — figured prominently in deciding the fate of the last four Georgetown teams.
The two friends will graduate in May, and while neither player is a lock to sneak into the second round of the NBA draft, both will be playing basketball somewhere next season.
Meanwhile, the Hoyas will be young in 2011-2012 and will almost certainly struggle to win 20 games.
When Hibbert and Wallace graduated, it signaled a changing of the guard. With Wright and Freeman gone, in many ways, the next phase of Georgetown basketball is about to begin.
So as we assess the program’s trajectory during the Wright-Freeman years, is it unfair to come to a conclusion based solely on NCAA tournament flameouts? Definitely.
But four years removed from a trip to the Final Four and taking into account the reasonable expectations attached to Wright and Freeman’s arrival, is this how anyone affiliated with the program thought things would turn out?
Dave Finn is a senior in the College and a former sports editor at The Hoya. Couch Talk appears in every other Tuesday edition of Hoya Sports.