Georgetown forward Greg Whittington tears ACL, could miss a significant amount of time

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that Georgetown men’s basketball forward Greg Whittington was a junior during the 2012-2013 season, when he was ruled academically ineligible. He was a sophomore.This version has been corrected.


Forward Greg Whittington (2), here in a March 2012 game, missed most of the 2012-13 season due to being ineligible academically. He’ll miss most if not all of the 2013-14 season with a torn ACL. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said Tuesday that 6-foot-8 forward Greg Whittington has suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and “there is no specific timetable for his return.”

The injury, which occurred earlier this month, is the latest setback for Whittington, who was ruled academically ineligible Jan. 12, just two games into the Big East portion of the Hoyas’ schedule.

A sophomore at the time, Whittington continued to take part in practice and attended home games while working to regain his academic eligibility. Without him, Georgetown won 13 of its next 14 games, claimed a share of the regular season Big East title and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, falling to Florida Gulf Coast in an opening-round shocker.

“Greg will return when he is 100 percent healthy,” Thompson said in a statement released by the university. “I feel for Greg because he’s worked extremely hard to prepare for the coming season, on and off the court. I’m confident this is just another setback that in the end will make him even stronger.”

It’s difficult to generalize about the recovery time for an ACL tear. It can be six to nine months for some athletes; others take longer, particularly those in sports that inflict considerable stress on knees, like basketball.

Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, a potential No. 1 pick in the June 27 NBA draft, tore his ACL on Feb. 12, underwent surgery in March and recently said he hoped to return to the game by Christmas. The Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose missed the entire 2012-13 season after suffering the injury in the 2012 playoffs.

Though Georgetown compensated for Whittington’s absence, finishing 25-7 overall (14-4, Big East), Thompson said repeatedly that the team would be far better with former All-Met Player of the Year from Oakland Mills in the lineup.

Long and lean with tremendous reach, Whittington blossomed into a force on offense and defense. In his 13 games last season, he averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

With the early departure of sophomore Otto Porter Jr. for the NBA draft, Whittington stood to play a more prominent role next season.

Porter, the Big East Player of the Year and a first-team all-American, led the Hoyas in scoring and rebounding, with 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

That said, with no seniors on last season’s team, Porter was the only player Georgetown lost. The Hoyas return a potent back court of rising senior Markel Starks and rising sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Forward Nate Lubick returns for his senior year. And the front court should benefit from the muscle UCLA transfer Josh Smith, who’s expected to be eligible in spring 2014.

Georgetown is the highest profile team in the reconstituted, 10-team Big East that makes its debut next season. The Hoyas will be tested early in the preseason, scheduled to play Oregon in the Nov. 8 Armed Forces Classic. Oregon posted a 28-9 record and reached the NCAA tournament’s Round of 16, falling to Louisville. The site of the game has not been determined.

Liz Clarke currently covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post, she has also covered five Olympic Games, two World Cups and written extensively about college sports, tennis and auto racing.
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