Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Beneath All the Long Shadows, Sweetney Casts a Brilliant Shine

Graphic by Charles Nailen/The Hoya Sweetney

Every single player who dons Georgetown’s blue and gray bears the unenviable and inescapable burden of living in the shadow of luminaries like Ewing, Mourning, Iverson and Floyd. For sophomore forward Mike Sweetney, the comparisons have already begun.

His game is as simple as it is good.

Sweetney is an old-fashioned power forward, about as flashy as a bar of soap. But in that simplicity does the depth of his talent show, because when he is on, he’s nearly unstoppable, even though you know exactly what he’s going to do.

Premature though it may be, Sweetney’s reputation is already being touted by friend and foe alike.

“When you give him the ball, he can score at will on anybody. If there’s one man that he has to beat, he’s going to beat him. If its two men, he’s going to beat them. aybe the third one might slow him down a little bit,” teammate Kevin Braswell said.

According to Braswell, Sweetney has more skills than people give him credit for, especially his on-the-court awareness and his ability to look for others when he’s double and triple teamed.

“Mike is everything,” Braswell said.

Head Coach Craig Esherick is understandably more reserved in talking about his budding superstar: He wants to make sure Sweetney doesn’t become too confident too early. Esherick said he was glad Sweetney did not get much playing time in Japan because he hopes it reminds Sweetney that he’s not the best around – yet.

“When you have the kind of year that Mike had, you need to be brought down to earth in some way, shape or form,” Esherick said. “I’m hoping the fact that he didn’t play, I’m hoping, has made Mike realize that there are some aspects of his game like his defense and his rebounding.”

Even so, Esherick says that Sweetney is “very close” to being a great player. He compared him to another former Hoya great, Craig Shelton.

“When you threw the ball inside to Craig in the post, he either scored or got fouled. He was a really good rebounder and he played hard.”

Shelton played for the Hoyas from 1976 to 1980, averaging 15.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game over his career. He went on to a successful professional career with the Atlanta Hawks.

Praise has even poured in from some of the most unlikely of sources: Big East players and coaches charged with figuring out how to stop Sweetney.

Even Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim, himself no friend to the Georgetown program, couldn’t help but concede Sweetney’s talent.

“He can play. He’s a very, very, good player,” Boeheim, who coached Sweetney on the national team this summer, said.

Big East Preseason Player of the Year Troy Bell of Boston College, who played with Sweetney in Japan, said he thinks Sweetney’s praises are deserved.

“Mike’s a really good player, with great post moves. I think he’s going to make some noise this year.”

Connecticut’s Caron Butler, the other Big East player on the national team, and a member of the preseason All-Big East first team, became good friends with Sweetney when the team was in Japan.

“He’s a great player. I look forward to that match up with Georgetown because of that friendly rival thing,” Butler said.

Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey knows all too well how good Sweetney can be. In early March last season, the Hoyas pulled out a crucial late-season victory against the Irish in South Bend, thanks in large part to Sweetney’s strong play.

“Sweetney’s a great player. He’s the best post player in the league,” Brey said. “I don’t know if we can guard him with one guy.”

After starting every game and leading the Hoyas in scoring and rebounding as a freshman, Sweetney was selected to play on the U.S. en’s National 22-and-Under team that took home the gold medal in Japan this summer. The team was made up of some of the best college players in the country, including Duke’s Carlos Boozer, Boston College’s Troy Bell, Connecticut’s Caron Butler and UCLA’s Jason Kapono, among others.

After his freshman season, he was also named to the Big East All-Rookie team after scoring 14 points per game and grabbing 7.4 rebounds for the Hoyas, playing an integral role in their march to the Sweet Sixteen.

This year, the praise has continued to flood in for the 6-foot-8, 260-pound power forward. He was named to the preseason All-Big East Second Team. He has been named an Athlon Sports Honorable Mention All-American, and ranked in the top 10 nationwide among power forwards by several national sports publications.

With those kinds of lofty predictions surrounding him, you might expect Sweetney to be growing an ego, but instead he is humble.

It’s obvious that Sweetney doesn’t like to talk about himself; he’s much more comfortable talking about his teammates.

It’s the same quiet humility found in most of the great ones, the ones who know how good they are and don’t feel the need to make a big deal about it. Sweetney lets his game do the talking.

His humility shines through most when he’s asked about the compliments being laid at his feet.

Sweetney becomes downright bashful when the idea of him becoming the next Hoya great is mentioned. His eyes shift around the room and he begins to fidget with that same humility and pride that is quickly becoming his trademark.

“Hopefully, I am, but I just try my best to play to win, and if that happens by me being the next one or whatever, I don’t know.”

His response to Brey and Boeheim’s praises was trademark Sweetney: “Deep down inside, I don’t feel as though I’m the best. I think I still have a lot of room for more improvement. It’s good that they feel that way about me, but I don’t feel that way about myself yet.”

Asked about what it was like to be selected for a team with the best players in the country, his first thought is not that it was an honor for him, but an opportunity to learn from guys like Bell and Butler.

“Learning different techniques from different players, I think all that adds up and helps you a lot.”

Sweetney is the latest in a long line of locally-recruited Georgetown talent. He was a high school star at nearby Oxon Hill High School in Maryland, which means his parents can attend every home game the Hoyas play. That kind of support, Sweetney said, allows him to feel much more comfortable than most young players.

Unlike most other players in his position, with a potential NBA career waiting in the wings, Sweetney says he doesn’t really have any personal goals for this season. He just wants to see the team succeed.

“I don’t have really too many personal goals, I’m just really set on the team winning, and I feel as though all that will fall into place if I do the right things.”

For the team, Sweetney says that if they play to their potential, they won’t have any regrets.

“My goal is to go as far as possible in the NCAA tournament and do the best we can. Knowing that we did the best we can, I’ll feel much happier.”

It’s that selflessness that makes Sweetney special.

Lots of players are talented. Very few of them have their heads on their shoulders as squarely as Sweetney appears to.

At Big East Media Day in October, reporters flocked to the Georgetown table to talk to Sweetney and Braswell about their preseason honors. Soon though, Sweetney was left alone while the reporters kept talking to Braswell, by all accounts the more charismatic of the duo. Instead of caring that Braswell was getting more attention than him, Sweetney began to flip through a media guide and occasionally turned to watch his more polished teammate finesse the press.

Someday, Sweetney knows, that will be him alone in the limelight. But until then, he’s happy just to work hard and let the world tell him how good he is, not the other way around.

The expectations are great, but Sweetney is ready.

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