As July 1 gets closer, we continue to catch up with how members of the new Big East fared prior to UConn’s arrival and how they project to be for the 2020-21 season. This time around, we take a look at one of the Huskies’ top rivals in Georgetown.
Head Coach: Patrick Ewing
2020 Record: 15-17, 5-13 Big East
NCAA Championships: 1984
Big East Tournament Championships: 1980, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 2007
Big East Regular Season Titles: 1980, 1984, 1987, 1989, 1992, 2007, 2008, 2013
Home Court: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.
Average Home Attendance: 8,437 in 2020
What UConn fans have missed
Not much, really. The new Big East hasn’t been forgiving to the Hoyas, who have posted a .500 or worse season in four of their seven years. Their best season in the new conference came in year two — John Thompson III led them to a 22-11 record in 2014-15 where they entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed and fell to No. 5 Utah in the round of 32. After back-to-back losing seasons in 2015-16 and 2016-17, Thompson was pushed out and legendary alumnus Patrick Ewing was brought in.
Ewing made some splashes on the recruiting trail, prying former UConn commit James Akinjo away from the Huskies after Kevin Ollie was fired and landing YouTube sensation Mac McClung. The recruiting wins haven’t really translated to success on the court, though.
After a .500 season in year one, the Hoyas went 19-14 in 2018-19 before taking a step back in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. Throughout the season, the Hoyas dealt with the midseason transfer of Akinjo and transfer/dismissal of Josh LeBlanc and were down to just nine scholarship players at one point.
As the season came to an end, Ewing told multiple news outlets that McClung was coming back to Georgetown after declaring for the NBA draft — something that was news to McClung, who told media he hadn’t made a decided on anything yet. Although Ewing technically ended up being right, McClung decided to withdraw from the draft and then transfer to Texas Tech.
Head Coach Patrick Ewing
Ewing’s first-ever coaching job has gotten off to a rocky start, best exemplified with the exodus of Akinjo, McClung and star big man Omer Yurtseven, who declared for the 2020 NBA draft. He’s put together a career record a touch over .500, but has never posted a winning record in conference play.
Despite the lack of success, Ewing has still gotten it done on the recruiting trail, putting together the fifth-best recruiting class in the Big East for 2020, led by four-star 6-foot-8 forward Jamari Sibley. While one of those recruits, Tyler Beard, is reclassifying to 2021 now, it’s still a solid class that should help ease the losses of Akinjo, McClung and Yurtseven.
If Ewing can continue to bring in solid classes and keep them in the program, there’s still time for him and the program to get back on track. Ewing excelled as an NBA assistant for years prior to taking the Georgetown gig, so he may still be learning what it takes to be a head coach at the college level. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Hoyas start to improve in the next few seasons.
Outlook for 2020-21
Losing both members of an above-average backcourt in Akinjo and McClung really hurt the Hoyas’ chances this year. Throw in Yurtseven, who averaged 15.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, and there are some real holes to fill in this lineup — but that’s what happens when your top three scorers leave the program. Ewing added some experience with grad transfers Jalen Harris and Chudier Bile, and while this duo shores up some gaps, it might not be enough to keep the Hoyas from missing the NCAA Tournament once again.
Potential Starting Five
Guard: Jahvon Blair, Sr
Blair is the Hoyas’ leading scorer after averaging 10.8 points per game last season. Despite leading Georgetown in 3-point attempts, he’s an average deep threat at best, shooting just 32.6 percent from three last year. Nonetheless, he’s a solid scorer inside the arc and the best free throw shooter the Hoyas have to offer.
Guard: Jalen Harris, R-Sr
Harris is the biggest question mark in this imaginary starting five, and it’s not out of the question that he plays more of a sixth man role this season. But he gets the starting nod here based on his experience. After a season at New Mexico and two at Arkansas, Harris has never really posted big numbers anywhere and had a down year in Fayetteville last season. While he played less last season compared to the year prior, his numbers were roughly the same: He was in the top 60 nationally in assist rate and did solid job drawing fouls and knocking down free throws. He should be a consistent, albeit unspectacular addition to the rotation.
Guard/Forward: Jamorko Pickett, Sr
Pickett is the odds-on favorite to be the Hoyas’ leading scorer this season. The senior bounced back from a sophomore slump to average 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting 37.6 percent from deep. At 6-foot-8, Pickett has the size to guard multiple positions and is serviceable on the boards as well. A strong senior season from Pickett could give the Hoyas the extra boost they need to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Forward: Chudier Bile
Bile joins Georgetown after a year at Northwestern State, where he averaged 14.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game on his way to being named to the 2019-20 All-Southland team. The Southland Conference is definitely not the Big East, but Bile should be able to hold his own even in a much better conference. He shot 37.6 percent from three last season and was one of the best in the country at getting to the free throw line while serving as the focal point of the Demons’ offense.
Forward/Center: Qudus Wahab
Wahab, a former UConn target, started seven games for the Hoyas, most towards the end of the season. The 6-foot-11 sophomore was efficient on offense in limited touches, best exemplified by his 13-point, four-rebound performance against Villanova in just 15 minutes. With Yurtseven gone, he’s Georgetown’s leading shotblocker and should be a formidable paint presence alongside Pickett on the defensive end.