2020 Georgetown men’s basketball preview: Hoyas have huge hill ahead

For many teams like Maryland this past March, there was the feel of a novel with the final chapter ripped out of the book.

But for Georgetown, there was no doubt — a disappointing 15-17 finish with a come-from-ahead loss in the Big East Tournament First Round to St. John’s. Seven straight defeats to end a season already disrupted by injuries and transfers. Instead of building off the 2019 NIT appearance and reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015, the Hoyas suffered their fourth nonwinning season in five years.

The offseason wasn’t any easier, with the departure of leading scorer Mac McClung, who transferred to Texas Tech, and top rebounder Omer Yurtseven, who declared for the NBA Draft.

Technically, this may be Head Coach Patrick Ewing’s fourth year, but with six freshmen and two graduate transfers, he’s almost starting over.

“The challenge of working with so many new faces is that they’re new,” Ewing said at the Big East virtual media day. “So it’s a process now in the environment we’re living in to be able to gel, to be able to know each other, and to be able to combine them with the other guys coming back from last year.”

The guys coming back? Only two players who averaged more than 15 minutes per game last winter. Senior Jamorko Pickett has started 83 of 93 games played in his Hoyas career, and the 6-foot-9-inch forward plans to contribute however and wherever.

“I think I pretty much can play every position. Maybe not point guard or center, but two, three or the four I think,” Pickett said. “It is pretty much the matchups and how [Coach Ewing] feels that we should be playing.”

Jahvon Blair was named to the Big East All-Freshman team before losing playing time to recruits Mac McClung and James Akinjo the last two winters.

The Brampton, Ontario, native knows the seeds of success to his senior season is how well he and Pickett guide the eight newcomers.

“Most definitely leadership’s everything. With me and ‘Marko being here for four year now, we’re the old cats,” Blair said. “With these new guys coming in and the new transfers we’ve just gotta tell them the Georgetown way and try to get that done.”

Blair and Pickett’s leadership cannot be underscored enough.

“I’m expecting a lot out of them because they’ve been here,” Ewing said. “They know what I expect from them and expect the team to do and they have to help lead along with the older kids that we’ve brought in the fifth-year guys.”

The fifth-year guys are transfers Jalen Harris (Arkansas), Donald Carey (Siena), and Chudier Bile (Northwestern State).

This is Harris’ third stop. The 6-foot-2-inch guard played for one year at New Mexico before transferring to Arkansas, where he started all 34 games as a redshirt sophomore, finishing fourth with 5.5 assists per game. His minutes declined during the first season of new Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman, and Harris hopes to return to previous form in D.C.

Carey has two years of eligibility after the Upper Marlboro, Maryland, native made 32 starts as a freshman with Mount St. Mary’s before averaging 11 points per game at Siena. Bile averaged 14 points with eight rebounds at the Southland Conference school.

“This is a very versatile team,” Pickett said. “We have a lot of different guys that can play a lot of different positions.”

In addition to that trio, six freshmen will be making their Georgetown debuts this winter, including four-star prospect Jamari Sibley (the 6-foot-8-inch forward was ranked the No. 17 power forward by ESPN100) and Kobe Clark (the St. Louis native was ranked the No. 58 small forward).

“There is going to be options for everybody to play,” Ewing said. “Everyone is going to have an opportunity.”

In three years at the helm, Ewing has seen five of his players at Georgetown make the Big East All-Freshman Team.

The Hoyas have been picked to finish 11th in this year’s Big East Preseason Poll (yes, UConn’s return gives the league the odd number it enjoyed from 1979-80, 1982-91, 1995-00, and 2012-13). While only two schools are in The Associated Press Preseason Top 25 (No. 3 Villanova and No. 11 Creighton) three more received votes (Providence, Seton Hall, plus the once and future conference foe Huskies).

The 20-game conference slate will be just as tough as it has been since the reformation of the league in 2013. Georgetown has posted a winning conference mark just once during the current era (2015, the last year it made the NCAA Tournament).

“The Big East to me is the best conference in College Basketball,” Blair said. “So I’m prepared for it; I’ve just gotta get these new guys to get used to it too.”

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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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