Markel Starks

Davante Gardner, Sandi Marcius

Marquette’s Davante Gardner named MVP of Portsmouth Invitational (VIDEO)


Saturday night the 62nd edition of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament came to an end in Portsmouth, Va., with the event showcasing college seniors looking to improve their standing in the eyes of scouts from the NBA and other professional leagues. The title game matched Sales Systems, Ltd. and Norfolk Sports Club, with former Georgetown point guard Markel Starks winning the game for Sales Systems with a shot with two seconds remaining.

Starks finished the game with 19 points and five assists, and he was one of two Sales Systems, Ltd. players to make the event’s All-Tournament Team. The other was former Marquette center Davante Gardner, who accounted for 20 points and nine rebounds in the title game and won tournament MVP honors.

The other players on the All-Tournament Team were:

  • F Javon McCrea (Buffalo; Norfolk Sports Club)
  • G/F Drew Crawford (Northwestern; Norfolk Sports Club)
  • F Ronald Roberts Jr. (Saint Joseph’s; Norfolk Sports Club)
  • C Shayne Whittington (Western Michigan; Portsmouth Partnership)
  • G Jake Odum (Indiana State; Portsmouth Partnership)
  • F Shawn Jones (Middle Tennessee; Roger Brown’s Restaurant)
  • G Andre Dawkins (Duke; Cherry Bekaert)
  • F/C Garrick Sherman (Notre Dame; Portsmouth Sports Club)
  • G Travis Bader (Oakland; K&D Round’s Landscaping)
  • F Jamil Wilson (Marquette; Mike Duman Auto Sales)

With Gardner and Wilson on the above list, Marquette was the only program to see two products make this year’s All-Tournament team. In the above video are a few highlights from WAVY-TV in Hampton Roads, Va., but unfortunately video of Starks’ game-winner did not make the segment.

Georgetown may have saved their season by beating No. 7 Michigan State

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Gary Harris
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Markel Starks scored 16 points and Mikael Hopkins chipped in with 10 as Georgetown picked up a win they desperately needed, knocking off No. 7 Michigan State, 64-60, at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

The Hoyas have been a mess this year. They entered the game having lost five straight games and six of their last seven. The only win the Hoyas currently have in Big East play came against Butler in overtime. They lost Josh Smith for the season due to academic struggles during that stretch. Moses Ayegba was suspended for a game. Jabril Trawick broke his jaw. It was ugly.

Which is what makes this win over the Spartans so important.

Georgetown still has time to turn this thing around. Their non-conference resume now consists of wins over Kansas State and VCU in addition to the win over the Spartans, which is about as good as you are going to find on the bubble. Their next five games — at DePaul, Butler, Providence, at Seton Hall, at St. John’s — are all winnable.

What Georgetown needed more than anything was a dose of confidence. This is clearly not one of John Thompson III’s best teams since he took over the program, but it’s not like this group doesn’t have some talent. Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera make up one of the best backcourts in the conference. The rest of the roster is at least serviceable, enough so that this should, on paper, be a team that can make the NCAA tournament.

The best-case scenario for the Hoyas seems very plausible. If they can build on this win — which came in a game where Smith-Rivera shot 2-for-11 from the floor — and take care of business in their next five games, they’ll end the season with a four-game stretch that can earn them that bubble berth: Xavier, at Marquette, Creighton, at Villanova.

The margin for error is minuscule, but this win gives the Hoyas life.

As far as the Spartans are concerned, this loss isn’t all that surprising.

Michigan State is without Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne, Keith Appling is banged up and they’re playing a game in the middle of Big Ten season in New York against a team that’s desperate to get the win.

In the long-run, this game doesn’t matter for the Spartans, and they played like it didn’t for too long. When a team is apathetic, when they don’t play as hard as they should, they’re prone to getting upset, especially when they are missing their two biggest, most athletic interior players.

This may as well have been a scrimmage for the Spartans.

But it was a season-changer for the Hoyas.

And the final score reflects that.

Markel Starks on Josh Smith: ‘You never really know what you’re going to get from [him]’

Oregon v Georgetown
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Joshua Smith has been an enigma since the moment he stepped on a collegiate court.

From a talent perspective, there are few that are on Smith’s level. His size, his hands, his footwork, his touch around the rim. He’s got lottery pick talent.

His problem has always been effort and desire.

Does he want to be good at basketball bad enough to get into — and stay in — game-shape? This is his fourth year as a college basketball player, and the answer, to date, is a definitive ‘no’.

He’s better conditioned now than he was the last couple of years back at UCLA and, to his credit, he does look slimmer. But he’s still not in the kind of shape that would allow him to maximize his potential. He’s still a major defensive liability. And he’s still struggling with his consistency.

I’m not the only one to notice.

“If I come out, if I’m lax, the entire team is going to be lax. Some guys are going to come that are ready to play, but from a mental standpoint, I pose so much for the team to be collectively good,” senior point guard Markel Starks told Ben Standig of “D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, he’s going to come out, he’s going to be ready to play. Josh, it’s a different story. You never really know what you’re going to get from Josh. Not so much we, but he also has to find his rhythm and give us something consistent. No, he’s not going to give us 25 points and seven rebounds a night. Can he, absolutely. He can be the most dominant big in the nation. But is he? We have yet to determine that.”

Starks later added, “Honestly, Josh can play 30 minutes. It’s just does Josh want to play 30 minutes on a particular night. He’s in really good shape. Everybody wants to talk about his weight and stuff like that. That stuff goes out the window. He’s productive and he can be really productive for us and he will be productive for us. (Starks laughs) He doesn’t have any other option.”

It’s important to note here that Starks was speaking with “positive intentions”, according to Standig. It also should be noted that Starks and Smith are roommates, and that Starks is not the kind of personality that will sugarcoat what he says. He’s an intense dude, and if he’s saying something to the media, you better believe he’s said the same thing to Smith.

But it’s interesting to note that someone on the Georgetown roster is recognizing the same thing that we are. Smith, with all of his deficiencies, is the guy that turns Georgetown from an NCAA tournament team to a legitimate favorite to win the Big East.

Georgetown’s strong shooting leads to comeback win against Virginia Commonwealth
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Georgetown used a blistering hot shooting performance from all three departments — two-point field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws — to defeat Virginia Commonwealth in the consolation game of the San Juan Shootout, 84-80.

Despite turning the ball over 26 times against VCU’s havoc defense, the Hoyas made the most of their opportunities when they had them as they shot 56.1% from the field (23-41) and 86.5% from the line (32-37) en route to the comeback win. They trailed 50-43 midway through the second half, but scored 41 points in the final  12:32 of the game to earn a solid early-season victory.

The guard play of Markel Starks D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera combined to score 49 points, and they out-dueled Briante Weber and Rob Brandenberg of VCU.

What may go unnoticed though was Josh Smith’s performance, especially at the free throw line. Smith notched 17 points, but hitting nine of then free throws — all of which came in the second half — helped in the Hoyas comeback win. Entering the game, Smith was just a 50% free throw shooter (13-26).

One of the major themes in the early weeks of the college basketball season has been the enforcement of rules on the defensive end that limit hand-checking and physical play that limits the movement of the offense. There may be no team in the country that has had this adversely effect them as much as VCU. The game is slowed down by the added whistles, which greatly limits Shaka Smart’s strategy of wearing an opponent down through relentless defensive pressure.

In their two losses to Florida State and Georgetown, both teams eclipsed the 80 point mark — very uncharacteristic for a VCU team.

Of course, it doesn’t help that in today’s loss to Georgetown, VCU starters not named Briante Weber combined to shoot a woeful 7-30.

From Georgetown’s perspective, this was a much needed bounce back win after losing to Northeastern in the first round of the San Juan Shootout. The emergence of Smith-Rivera adds another dimension to the Georgetown offense and is a welcome sign, especially with someone needing to step up and fill the void Otto Porter left. In the first game of the season against Oregon, Smith-Rivera totaled just five points, but since then he is averaging 22.5 ppg.

Georgetown’s horrendous second half dooms them against Northeastern

Scott Eatherton, Mikael Hopkins
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Northeastern’s starting front line of Scott Eatherton and Reggie Spencer combined for 30 points and 19 boards as the Huskies knocked off Georgetown 63-56 in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off down in San Juan on Thursday.

It really was an ugly performance from Georgetown, particularly in the second half. Northeastern threw a zone at the Hoyas, and Georgetown looked utterly lost. The Hoyas didn’t have much in the way of a zone offense, as Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera struggled to penetrate against the zone. And since the Hoyas shot a sterling 3-for-16 from beyond the arc, Northeastern was able to slack off on the perimeter, taking away from Georgetown’s massive size advantage in the paint.

Where the Hoyas really are going to miss Otto Porter is against a 2-3 zone. He was so good at finding space in the high-post area and making something happen, whether it was getting himself a look at the rim for creating a shot for one of his teammates. Who plays that role for the Hoyas this year? Nate Lubick looked lost on the perimeter on Thursday, committing five really ugly turnovers. Mikael Hopkins doesn’t really have the kind of skill set that will make him a threat. Neither does Jabril Trawick. Josh Smith might actually be pretty good in the high-post, but that would take away his ability seal in front of the rim, a move that is unstoppable when he gets position.

Starks and Smith-Rivera are not going to have many nights where they combine for 7-for-26 shooting and make just a combined 2-for-12 from beyond the arc. They are too good for that. But don’t be surprised to see teams that get fed up with Josh Smith’s dominance inside to start throwing zones at Georgetown more often.

Most of Northeastern’s damage was done in the second half, as they outscored Georgetown 38-20 in the final 20 minutes. That zone completely stagnated offensive attack, and it also seemed to sap them of energy defensively. Northeastern really bullied the Hoyas on the glass for the final 20 minutes

Georgetown will play Kansas State, who lost to Charlotte earlier today, in the consolation bracket tomorrow.

No. 19 Oregon holds off Georgetown and Josh Smith, 82-75

Oregon v Georgetown
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Oregon got 55 points from their three notable transfers as the No. 19 Ducks shook off the suspensions of Dominic Artis and Ben Carter to hold off Georgetown out in South Korea, 82-75.

Dana Altman’s club got 24 points from Joseph Young and 16 points from Jason Calliste, who combined to hit just 7-for-17 from the floor and 3-for-10 from three but knocked down all 23 of their free throw attempts.

The difference maker for the Ducks ended up being Mike Moser and, to a lesser extent, Richard Amardi. Moser finished with 15 points and seven boards, but he also chipped in with four steals and a block, showcasing his ability to use his length to make plays on the defensive end of the floor. He only made two of the seven threes he took, but the threat of that shot caused issues for Georgetown defensively.

Oregon was a different team without Artis on the floor last season, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year. The Ducks have depth at the guard spot, enough that it’s reasonable to think that Artis could end up losing his spot as a starter at the point if guys like Jonathan Loyd, Young and Calliste continue to play well.

Where they aren’t as deep is in the front court, which is why this win is so impressive. The Ducks got abused on the interior by Josh Smith, who finished with 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting while seemingly getting every single front court player for Dana Altman into foul trouble. But they were still able to pull out a tough win on the other side of the world, a win that is made all the more important by the fact that a) the Ducks don’t have too much else on their non-conference slate, and b) that this win will end up looking better in March than it does right now.


Because Georgetown is only going to get better.

Smith is a special talent, and Georgetown’s ability to turn skilled big men into stars will allow them to maximize Smith’s ability. He’s impossible to stop in the post, but he’s a good enough passer and decision-maker that double-teaming him is difficult. He’s a liability on the defensive end, however, as he can’t defend the pick-and-roll, he’s not a shot-blocker and he can’t rebound out of his area. As well as he played tonight, Smith didn’t get a single defensive rebound.

That defensive liability is what keeps Georgetown from being a team that’s a legitimate Final Four contender. But this is still a group that should be good enough to play their way into the top 15 or 20 nationally. Come March, this is going to be a marquee win for the Ducks.