Basketball Around the Beltway: Georgetown basketball season preview

WASHINGTON — In 1981, Patrick Ewing was the perfect fit for Georgetown. The highly-recruited center turned the Hoyas from one of the better Big East schools into a powerhouse: three Final Fours, a national championship and near-misses in two of the more memorable title tilts of the era.

Thirty-two years after last wearing the signature gray T-shirt underneath his jersey, Ewing tries to bring his school back from what has been a rough couple of years. Consecutive 18-loss campaigns. Early exits at the Big East Tournament. Defeats to lowly DePaul. Roughly 5,000 fans on hand at Verizon Center for the St. John’s game. There’s work to be done.

Say goodbye to the Princeton Offense run by John Thompson III.

“It’s going to be a blend of the NBA style and also the style that we played here at Georgetown in terms of pressing and being up the floor — all that stuff in my years here,” said Ewing.

That’s music to the ears of the fans who watched the Hoyas finish last in the Big East in steals and turnover margin in 2016-17. Ewing will have a revamped roster to work with as only two of his top six scorers are back from last winter, though he does have a big man at his disposal in 6-foot-10 forward Jessie Govan.

“Jessie is one of the keys to our success,” Ewing said. “If he does not have step up and have a great year for us we won’t be successful. I’ve put a lot on his plate.”

To say the least. The junior forward averaged 10 points per game last winter and was tied for the team lead in rebounding. So does he feel any pressure in practice dealing with the best big man in school history?

“I mean, not pressure. I just gotta listen to everything he says,” Govan said. “Because everything he says is with a purpose. I’m just listening to everything he says and then going out there to do my thing.”

Govan’s thing is pretty good when he hits his stride, like when he scored 23 points and 8 rebounds against NCAA-bound Marquette last February. But he posted just a pair of double-doubles last winter — neither occurring in Big East play.

Govan will have help. Fellow junior Marcus Derrickson expects to build off a sophomore year that began with a bang, as the Bowie, Maryland, native averaged 15 points over first five Big East games last winter. Unfortunately, he posted just a pair of double-digit efforts the rest of the way.

“I know going into this season and coming out of last year I have a lot to work on,” the 6-foot-7 forward said. “I had to get in better shape and just improve my overall game. Coming into college and not winning for two years really motivated me to push myself so I can win this year.”

Former Ole Miss recruit JaMarko Pickett will also be in the mix. And while this trio won’t make anybody forget the days of Ewing and Michael Graham, they should be able to hold their own inside this winter.

Guards Jagan Moseley (second in assists as a freshman) and former Juco Transfer Jonathan Mulmore are potential producers on the perimeter. There’s help at the point in the form of graduate transfer Trey Dickerson (South Dakota) and freshman Jahvon Blair. Greg Malinowski is a graduate transfer from William & Mary, where he shot 40 percent from three-point range last season.

The schedule has few speed bumps — a Nov. 25 trip to Richmond and a Dec. 16 game against Syracuse (even with all of their issues the last two winters, John Thompson III’s team was able to beat the Orange). Big East play begins with Butler Dec. 27. The Hoyas also play DePaul, Marquette and Creighton before finally facing a conference foe that was in the league when Ewing was a player — at St. John’s on Jan. 9. I think there might be more than 5,158 at Capital One Arena when the Red Storm drop by the District Jan. 20.

Ewing returns to campus after being an assistant coach in the NBA for the last 15 years. He’s never been a head coach anywhere and has never coached in the college game — until now.

“We’ll just take it day by day, step by step, laying the foundation, and we’ll see what happens in the future,” he said.

The hires of Craig Esherick and John Thompson III each saw early success before eventually meeting failure. For those who grew up on Hoya Paranoia in the 1980s, #33 offers one final attempt to return to the program’s “Camelot.”

“You know, everyone was wearing the Georgetown starter jacket. From the East Coast to the West Coast. People in the movies were wearing it. I think all that showed how dominant we were,” Ewing said.

The long road back begins Nov. 12 against Jacksonville.

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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