Basketball around the beltway: Big hopes for Little Billy

WASHINGTON — If there’s one thing you need to understand about Georgetown,
it’s coach John Thompson III’s use of “Little Billy” to illustrate a point.
“Little Billy” doesn’t actually exist, but serves as a euphemism when JT3
talks big picture. In the decade since he took over the program, “Little
Billy” has appeared in more press conferences than any other player — I’m
hoping they eventually retire his number.

The Hoyas look to erase a winter of discontent that saw plenty of highs (an
upset win over Michigan State) with more than a few lows (losing to last-place
DePaul in the first round of the Big East Tournament) before ending in the
NIT. It was a season of attrition, as injuries and academic issues eventually
forced coach Thompson use duct tape and rubber bands to hold together a
workable rotation. If Little Billy actually existed, he could have played
major minutes.

Georgetown will miss the ballhandling, presence and pure moxie of Markel
Stark, who led both versions of the Big East in swagger for much of his
career. But in his absence, Thompson believes there are multiple players who
can initiate the offense, from freshman Tre Campbell to senior D’Vauntes
Smith-Rivera. Quite a bit will be expected from both this winter as Campbell
leads a highly-touted freshman class and Smith-Rivera is the Big East
Preseason Player of the Year.

First, the freshmen: Tre Campbell is just one piece in a five player ensemble
that is already impressing the coaching staff and upperclassmen. Thompson
feels Campbell will provide a presence on both ends of the floor with his
speed and creativity. And he’ll be joined by a bigger Trey in the form of 6-
foot-9 forward Trey Mourning, son of Alonzo. Paul White also provides size
inside and “an old soul” according to his coach. Isaac Copeland and L.J. Peak
will also battle for minutes, as Thompson feels these newcomers are all quick

Secondly, the seniors: Smith-Rivera led the team in scoring — hitting over a
third of the team’s threes — and was second in rebounding last season. He’ll
continue to be the focal point of the offense, but the coach admits the senior
needs to make strides defensively. Then again, JT3 says that one of the major
shortcomings last winter by the entire team was the team’s defensive
execution. Smith-Rivera does have help up front in 6-foot-9 forward Mikael
Hopkins — who provided grit inside last year — along with, in theory, a Josh
Smith who stays academically sound as well as active on the boards. Even
before Smith was sidelined by his schoolwork, his rebounding left quite a bit
to be desired — the 6-foot-10 tree trunk corralled just 3.4 rebounds in over
20 minutes a game. How did Josh spend his summer? Working in Salon Shoes at a
Seattle-area Nordstrom. Just like defense does not end until you get the
rebound, selling a pair of shoes doe s not end until you provide accessory

The Hoyas were picked to finish second in the Big East behind a Villanova team
that begins the year ranked 12th in the nation. In tuning up for league play,
they face a pair of top ten teams in the form of #5 Kansas and 7th-ranked
Florida. The key stretch appears to be from February 7 – March 3, in which
they’ll play four-of-six away from D.C., including a home-and-home with St.
John’s (picked third in the conference) plus road games at Villanova, Seton
Hall and Butler. With improved defense and rebounding, Little Billy hopes to
cut down the nets at MSG.

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