Roy Hibbert

John Thompson

Two NBA stars each pledge $1 million for new Georgetown practice facility


Georgetown will soon break ground on a brand-new, four-story practice facility named after legendary former head coach John Thompson, and two more former Hoyas that are now in the NBA have each pledged $1 million to support the building.

After Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing and his agent, David Falk, pledged $3.3 million to the new practice facility in late August, Boston Celtics wing Jeff Green and Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert have both stepped up and donated as well.

Green donated $1 million on his 28th birthday late last week. In college, Green helped lead the Hoyas to a Final Four appearance in 2007.

“I’m very fortunate to be in a position to give back to the University and to the program that has done so much for me,” Green said in a release. “The environment created by Coach (John) Thompson III and his staff helped shape me both academically and athletically. Georgetown and Georgetown Basketball is at my core and is part of who I am.”

Hibbert made his donation on Tuesday, which comes on Thompson’s 73rd birthday. Although both Green and Hibbert played for John Thompson III, the elder Thompson still had a big impact on Georgetown basketball during their careers.

“I am deeply indebted to Georgetown University and the basketball program for all they have done for me,” Hibbert said in a release. “I put in a lot of hard work to get where I am, but I was given a tremendous amount of guidance both on and off the floor from Coach Thompson III and I wouldn’t be here without him.”

The Thompson Athletics Center will have ground break on September 12th and will cost $62 million, all of which is being raised. The practice facility will be 144,000 square feet and include practice courts, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices for the men’s and women’s basketball programs and a weight room.

Markel Starks, Otto Porter lead Georgetown past No. 11 UCLA

Markel Starks, John Thompson III
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BROOKLYN – This game was supposed to be about Shabazz Muhammad and UCLA. With the nation’s most talented freshman finally getting declared eligible by the NCAA this past Friday, Monday night’s game against Georgetown in the semifinals of the Legends Classic was supposed to be his debutante ball.

We’ve all seen the mixtapes. We’ve all watched the youtube highlights. Monday was supposed to be the real thing.

And then Georgetown showed up. If this was UCLA’s debutante ball, than Georgetown was the girl that took home the Bruin’s date.

The Hoyas got a career-high 23 points from Markel Starks in a 78-70 win over the No. 11 Bruins, moving to 3-0 on the season. Starks may have led the team in scoring, but Otto Porter was the star in his first full game of the season. He finished with 18 points, 11 boards, five blocks, five assists and three steals.

“Otto’s first full game, if you look at the stat sheet, is a full game,” Thompson said, “and there is a whole bunch of other stuff that he did that doesn’t show up on this stat sheet. We’re a better team with him on the court, so it was good to have him back out there.”

This was a long way from the best game that UCLA will put together this season, but that shouldn’t diminish just how impressive Georgetown was. The Hoyas used a 12-0 run to open the second half, sparked by a pair of threes from sophomore Greg Whittington and capped with a dunk in transition from Mikael Hopkins, and systematically picked apart the UCLA defense for the duration of the game. The Bruins were able to get within four on a couple of occasions, but Georgetown had an answer for every Bruin run.

The best player on the floor for Georgetown in this game was Starks, the Hoyas’ junior point guard in his second season as a starter. His stat line was impressive enough — 23 points on 9-14 shooting, 2-4 from beyond the arc, four steals, two assists — but it was his leadership and patience running the team that made the difference.

“Starks had a great game tonight,” Howland said. “He had 23, and that was as many points as he scored in the last six games last season. He’s made a big jump and that really hurt us.”

When you think of Georgetown, the first thing that comes to mind is their front court. John Thompson III has developed a reputation for producing versatile, play-making big men that he runs his offense through: Greg Monroe, Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, Henry Sims. What people don’t realize, however, is that those same Hoya teams are at their best when they are stocked with veteran back court players, the Austin Freemans and Chris Wrights and Jonathon Wallaces of the world.

Starks is the next in line in that role, and if tonight was any indication, he may be ready for the limelight.

“We’ve had guys that go into the season as unknowns, and guys that when their opportunities come, they’re ready,” Thompson said after the game. “This is an unselfish group, and they trust each other. Tonight was a night where Markel got in a little rhythm, and his teammates did a good job of finding him.”

As good as Starks was, the difference in this game came with about seven minutes left in the first half. UCLA was on a 22-10 run over a ten minute stretch, erasing Georgetown’s 10-2 start, and on the verge of taking control of the game. That’s when JT III switched to a 2-3 zone, and completely changed the course of the game.

“When they went zone in the last seven minutes of the second half, we were tentative and didn’t get it inside,” Howland said. UCLA ended up down two at halftime, setting up Georgetown’s 12-0 spurt to start the second half.

Georgetown is not a traditionally ‘big’ team. Mikael Hopkins and Nate Lubick are a long way from Cody Zeller and Thomas Robinson. Where the Hoyas have size, however, is on the wings. They start Greg Whittington and Otto Porter, who are both 6-foot-8 with insanely long wingspans, at the two and the three. They have Stephen Domingo and Jabril Trawick, who are both 6-foot-5 and athletic, coming off the bench. When the Hoyas settle back into that zone, that length makes them tough to score on.

It’s tough to judge a team based off of a single performance, especially when that performance comes less than a week after the Hoyas struggled to beat Atlantic 10 bottom-feeder Duquesne at home.

But it’s also difficult to ignore this one simple fact: Georgetown just smacked a UCLA team that could have as many as four or five first round picks.

That’s quite a statement to make.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Preseason Big East Player of the Year: the gift and the curse?

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At Big East media day on Wednesday it was announced that the coaches selected Louisville senior point guard Peyton Siva as their preseason Player of the Year.

That’s quite the honor for Siva, who is coming off of a season in which he struggled with health early but once at full strength helped lead the Cardinals to a Big East tournament title and the Final Four.

Siva averaged 9.1 points and 5.6 assists per game in 2011-12, and he performed better in postseason play to the tune of 11.3 points and 6.0 assists in Louisville’s nine games (Big East and NCAA tournaments).

With the preseason honor Siva will now look to do something that hasn’t been done in the Big East in nearly a decade.

Not since the 2003-04 season has the preseason choice for Big East Player of the Year gone on to win the honor at the end of the season (UConn’s Emeka Okafor).

In fact, as Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard reported, league coaches have shown themselves to be pretty good at completely missing on the honor.

In each of the last five seasons there’s been an example of a Big East Player of the Year winner not receiving any kind of honor in the preseason.

Last year, the coaches tab Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs as the preseason Player of the Year. However, the post-season award went to Marquette’s Jae Crowder, who in the preseason wasn’t on the coaches’ first or second all-conference teams.

The same happened in 2010-11. Georgetown’s Austin Freeman was the preseason pick, meanwhile the year’s eventual winner; Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough, was left of the coaches’ preseason all-league teams.

Ditto in 2009-10. Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody was the preseason player of the year pick. Syracuse’s Wes Johnson would end up with the post-season hardware despite the fact that he wasn’t on either the first or second all-conference teams in the preseason.

In 2008, the coaches chose Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert for preseason player of the year. Harangody, just a sophomore, won the post-season award. Harangody had not been on the coaches’ preseason all-league teams.

In 2009 UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet, who was honored in the preseason, shared Big East Player  of the Year with a player in Pittsburgh’s DeJuan Blair who was not.

The question for this season: if it isn’t Siva then which of the other players not named to the Big East’s first and second teams is most capable of rising to the challenge?

One player to keep an eye on: Notre Dame guard Eric Atkins. While Jack Cooley (first team) and Jerian Grant (honorable mention) had their names called on Wednesday Atkins did not.

The junior from Columbia, Maryland averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 assists per game last season, and while he was second on the team in assists (Grant) playing on a talented team that can win the conference could help Atkins’ case.

There’s also Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. Fair and James Southerland at Syracuse to take into consideration, and Cincinnati’s Cashmere Wright wasn’t named to a preseason All-Big East team either.

Siva’s a worthy choice for preseason Big East Player of the Year, but a look at the recent history of the honors shows that it may be someone not on the preseason radar who takes the trophy home in March.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Georgetown’s versatility best way to counteract youth

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Belmont v Georgetown
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Since John Thompson III took over the Georgetown program back in 2004, his most successful teams have had two things in common: a steady, veteran presence in the back court to lead the team and versatile, playmaking big men who can dissect a defense by throwing that backdoor bounce-pass that has become a staple of the Hoya offense under JT III.

Think about it. When Georgetown made the Final Four in 2007 and won their second straight Big East title in 2008, their back court was made up of Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp. When those two graduated, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman took the reins. That paved the way for Jason Clark last season. In the front court, Jeff Green made way for Roy Hibbert, who graduated just in time for Greg Monroe to step in and take over. Last season, Henry Sims finally lived up to his potential, becoming one of the better big men in the Big East and finding his way onto the roster for the New York Knicks this season.

Heading into the 2012-2013 season, those roles are two of the biggest question marks for the Hoyas.

After starting 25 games as a sophomore last season, Starks is the obvious choice to take on a bigger role in the back court. As the elder statesmen in the back court — Georgetown has no seniors, making Starks, a junior, the longest-tenured guard on the roster — it is a role that Starks knows he needs to fulfill, although he does understand the difficulties involved.

“It’s a challenge,” he told reporters at Georgetown’s Media Day. “You’re surrounded by a lot of alpha males, so you have to set an example. It’s not so much who can talk the best or who can bench the most, it’s about who can show the best. I think on gameday, I’ll have to bring that. I have had leaders like Jason Clark and Chris Wright to kind of show me the ropes. It’s just like the torch has been passed.”

Not only is Starks is lone upperclassmen in Georgetown’s perimeter attack, he also happens to be the only point guard on the roster that’s not a walk-on. In other words, he’s going to have the ball in his hands quite a bit, which would normally be a concern considering that he was fourth on the team in assists last year.

The beauty of the Georgetown attack, however, is that having a point guard that struggles to create off the dribble isn’t a concern. The Hoyas rarely run isolation plays. In a half-court setting, when the offense is functioning efficiently, Georgetown gets the majority of their open looks off of crisp passing, pick-and-rolls disguised as handoffs, and correctly taking advantage of the way the defense is playing. In other words, it’s all about reading and understanding where the next cut needs to be made and who has to get the ball at a certain time.

That’s where Thompson’s biggest concern with the youth on his roster lies heading into the new season.

“I’m not going into it thinking that we’re going to need Markel to go from X points-per-game to X-plus-six points-per-game. I think it will happen. I think we’ve got guys that can score,” he said. “We lost a lot of understanding with the group that left last year. We lost a lot of passing with the group that left last year. I think it’s easy, because we’re all programmed to look at stats, to think scoring. But a lot of the intangibles that I’m more concerned with losing in Henry, Hollis [Thompson] and Jason, that we’re going to miss.”

“I’m worried about understanding, stuff that comes along with being a senior, with being around and being with the program for a while.”

It wouldn’t come as a shock to anyone if the Hoya offense took a step back this season. Not only will they have a new look back court, but they’ll be dealing with a different presence in the middle. One of the things that makes Georgetown unique and difficult to prepare for is that their offense runs through their big men, who are quite often the team’s best play-makers. Nate Lubick changed his body during the offseason and is mentally prepared for an expanded role offensively, but nothing about his first two seasons on the Hilltop provide reason to believe he’s the next in the pipeline of future pros under JT III.

That title belongs to sophomore forward Otto Porter, who is a perfect example of the versatility of this year’s Georgetown team. He averaged 9.7 points and 6.8 boards in his first season with the Hoyas, numbers that Thompson — and just about every college hoops pundit across the country — believe will spike this year.

“Otto Porter is a worker. He is one of the guys that understands, as good as he is, that he can get better,” Thompson said of the guy currently projected as the 24th pick in the 2013 draft by ( “Otto takes pride in every aspect of the game. Then there’s the realization that, ‘Hey, I can get better at every aspect of the game’. It’s not just, ‘Can I get my shot off? Let me work on my midrange game.’ He really worked on all aspects of the game.”

Offensively, Porter appears to be improved. A natural small forward, Porter went to both the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Nike camps over the summer, where he worked on things like his three-point stroke (he shot just 22.6% from distance last year), his mid-range game and his ability to dribble and pass the ball. The early returns are positive, as he looks much smoother and more confident shooting the ball. During media day, Georgetown ran through some shooting drills while Thompson spoke, and at one point Porter his 12 out of 13 threes. Hard-workers with the skills and physical tools to be elite defenders are almost always going to be considered high-level prospects.

“Otto knows what’s out there. We won’t try to hide from him what’s out there. I think he’s dealing with it fine. Otto’s as grounded as they come,” Thompson said. “He just shows up, he brings his lunch pail and he works. Whatever happens, happens. I think the reason that a lot of good things have happened and will continue to happen to him is that he doesn’t get engrossed in all of that.”

Where Porter will make the biggest impact next season is on the defensive end of the floor. In fact, Georgetown’s strength next season will be on the defensive end. According to Kenpom’s rankings, the Hoyas were the nation’s seventh-most efficient defense a season ago. The reason for that was the number of players they have that can defend multiple positions, and the Hoyas return many of those guys. Porter can defend anyone on the floor, from point guards to centers. Another 6-foot-8 sophomore, Greg Whittington, can do the same. Sophomores Jabril Trawick and Aaron Bowen and freshman Stephen Domingo are big wings with long wingspans, and Trawick and Bowen have as much raw athleticism as anyone in the country. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, the prize of Thompson’s 2012 recruiting class, is a physical, 6-foot-3 combo-guard who is lauded as one of the more intelligent and well-rounded players at his position.

Last season, what made Georgetown so effective defensively was that Thompson was able to mix up defenses from game-to-game and from possession-to-possession. The length available allowed him to play a 2-3 zone, while the ability of his forwards to defend out on the perimeter made a switching man-to-man and a matchup zone options, as well.

That’s great news for Hoya fans.

The easiest way for a program to deal with youth and expanded roles offensively is to excel on the defensive end of the floor.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Hollis Thompson goes from undrafted to an NBA player

NCAA Basketball Tournament - North Carolina State v Georgetown
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The big news of the day in Washington DC is that former Hoya Hollis Thompson has inked a three-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The terms of the deal are not yet known, and they also are not all that important. What is important is that Thompson, who declared for the draft with a year of eligibility left before going undrafted, will be in the NBA and will be making NBA money. Even if Thompson is getting paid the league minimum, he’ll cash almost $500,000 worth of checks as a rookie.

How many of his Georgetown classmates can say as much?

But this signing also is significant for John Thompson III.

The Hoyas have been and always will be associated with big men. From Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutumbo to Greg Monroe, Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green, the pros produced by both John Thompson Jr and his son are front court players. And seeing as Hibbert and Green will sign contracts that total nearly $100 million this summer, I think it is safe to say that recruits are noticing how good JT3’s big men end up being.

That’s probably why the top recruit in the Class of 2012 — Nerlens Noel — thought long and hard about becoming a Hoya. Like it or not, being able to get players to the NBA is more important to recruiting than winning national titles. Why do you think John Calipari was the best recruiter in the country before he won the title back in April?

Which brings us to Thompson.

Technically, Thompson is a front court player (he plays small forward), but he’s most definitely a wing. He is a 6-foot-8 sharpshooter that once went 44-50 from beyond the three point line in a workout. He’s also Georgetown’s first perimeter player to get this kind of a contract under JT3. Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Jason Clark and Jonathon Wallace were good college players but couldn’t find their footing at the next level.

Thompson has, and he’s done it in a place that should be beneficial to his development. If he can carve out a career in the NBA, he can be the example that JT3 uses while recruiting perimeter players.

It wouldn’t hurt if D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and now Stephen Domingo, top 100 recruits enrolling at Georgetown next season, had successful freshmen campaigns to back up this notion.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Georgetown’s big men thrive on the system’s simplicity

NCAA Basketball Tournament - North Carolina State v Georgetown
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Last Friday, I wrote a column over at about the Georgetown Hoyas and how John Thompson III is continuing the school’s tradition of producing big men, only his bigs are of a much different ilk than those of his father.

Big John is known for churning out all-star centers that thrive on their size, length and athleticism — Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutumbo, Alonzo Mourning. JT III’s big men are more versatile, using their advanced skill sets and decision-making ability to make up for the lack of freakish athleticism. Think Greg Monroe, Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green.

I talked with the younger Thompson about this, about why his program churns out such a different style of big man. His answer? He forces his big men “to make reads”.

“It’s all about making reads as much as it is learning a specific play,” he said. “When you’re playing with a 24 second shot clock, the guy that will succeed is the guy that makes smart decisions more so than the guy running plays out of a set. At that point, you have to put a premium on playing together and making reads — being able to read the defense, being able to read how you’re being played, being able to read how your teammates are being played. That’s something that we put a premium on from the time they first start here.”

The most fascinating part of the conversation was how simple he considered his offense.

So much is made of the system that Georgetown employs, but at the end of the day, their offense actually lacks structure. Hoya players are drilled, from the second that he step foot on campus, how to read certain situations and what to do when a defense plays a certain way. The most difficult part, according to Thompson, is breaking players out of the thinking that every play has to be diagrammed for them. Simply put, he teaches them how to play basketball, regardless of what position they play.

In his words, he gives them “the ability to just be a basketball player is something that we stress. Don’t be a position.”

At the end of the day, Thompson’s offense relies on simplicity. And as Spencer Hall of EDSBS lays out, in sports, simplicity kills:

At the highest levels of sport, simplicity kills. The San Antonio Spurs’ playbook is one of the more old school you will find in the NBA. Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in the Champions’ League Final not by lifting pages from the school of Spanish Tactical Genius, but instead by playing disciplined (and very lucky) defend-and-counter. The Air Raid variant Dana Holgorsen used to hang 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl is installed in three days, and has no written playbook used as reference.

Simplicity in strategy is in one sense a procrastinator’s dream since it allows you to negate others’ preparations by forcing much of the mental action to the field. The glorious blitz you spent months constructing for a specific formation and situation, Mr. Sleep-Deprived Defensive Coordinator? The offensive coordinator, working from the hip and calling the play on the field via signals, just made it an irrelevance with an audibled run to the other side for seven yards.

Take notes, coaches.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.