Georgetown vs. Marquette: Hoyas thriving thanks to versatility

John McDonnell/The Washington Post - Greg Whittington, left, and Otto Porter can play a number of roles for the Georgetown men’s basketball team.

Buy This Photo

Notably missing from the box scores that Georgetown publishes for its home men’s basketball games are the positions of the Hoyas players.

Every facet of each athlete’s contribution is quantified, as is custom: field goals, three-point field goals, free throws, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. But there is no “G,” “F” or “C” beside each name indicating whether the player in question is a guard, forward or center.

That’s not an oversight, but by design — an expression of Coach John Thompson III’s offensive philosophy, with every player capable of playing multiple roles.

This season, it’s a philosophy that makes sense for the Hoyas given the versatility of Otto Porter Jr. and Greg Whittington, mirror-image 6-foot-8, 205-pound sophomores who can effectively bring the ball upcourt on one play, drive for a layup the next, step back for a long-range jumper or bang inside for a rebound and dish to the perimeter.

Such responsibilities are an easy sell to do-it-all players like Porter, who leads the Hoyas in five categories: points (13.2 per game), rebounds (7.7), assists (3.2), steals (2.2) and blocks (1.4), and Whittington, whose numbers are just a fraction off Porter’s.

Better still, it frustrates opponents, who never know whether Porter and Whittington will operate in a manner befitting their size or not. Rather than serving as basketball archetypes based on height, the Hoyas’ starters tend to slide into whatever role the situation warrants, like character actors with a limitless repertoire.

“For me and Greg, our coach wants us to be everywhere on the court, and do everything that we can do that we’re capable of doing, which is a lot,” Porter explained this week. “So we try to go out there and do it every night, whether rebounding, bringing the ball up the court or scoring.”

Adds Whittington: “It gives us so many options. If you cut one option off, we have another one to counter that.”

As No. 15 Georgetown (10-1) launches into Big East play Saturday at Marquette (10-3, 1-0), that versatility is the Hoyas’ chief offensive weapon.

Thompson bristles at a suggestion that he’s beholden to any particular system, however. He says he’s simply leveraging the skills of his players, which in the case of Porter and Whittington are bountiful.

“Greg Whittington can be a guard. Greg Whittington can be a small forward. Depending who we’re playing, Greg Whittington can be a big forward,” Thompson says. “The more you have guys that can play different positions, it’s harder to guard because who is the opposition’s [power forward] going to guard? Greg or Otto? We can play around with that matchup.”

American Coach Jeff Jones can testify to the consequences. Jones has grown accustomed to Georgetown’s versatility since Thompson arrived on the Hilltop. But he was struck by it anew following a 65-48 loss to Georgetown on Dec. 22, in which Porter levitated for rebounds, fired pinpoint passes and called plays in the rare moments when he wasn’t scoring.

“Otto Porter fits that mold perfectly,” Jones said. “You can’t pin him down as just a shooter or driver or just a post-man or just an offensive rebounder. He is all of those things.”

While Marquette opened its Big East schedule with an 82-76 win over Connecticut on Tuesday, Georgetown hasn’t played a game since Dec. 22. Thompson tried to keep practice as intense as possible during the two-week lull, turning every drill into a competition. But he conceded that it’s impossible to replicate the pressure, noise and emotion of game-day situations during practice.

Rebounding has been a point of emphasis during the closed-door workouts at McDonough Arena. To date, the burden has been disproportionately shared by Porter and Whittington, and Thompson has made plain that he wants the rest of the Hoyas, regardless of height, to “join the party.”

Said Porter: “That’s one thing my father taught me: “Go for rebounds! You’ll have a better opportunity to score if you go get it yourself!’ ”

Georgetown note: The presidents of the seven schools that plan to break away from the Big East met in New York on Friday and set the process of forming their own conference in motion, hiring the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP and media consultant Pilson Communications Inc. for guidance.

New York-based Proskauer Rose has extensive experience in litigation, intellectual property, sports law and entertainment law. Pilson Communications, founded by former president of CBS Sports Neil Pilson, advises athletes, teams and leagues on broadcast and marketing deals.

“We had a very productive engagement among our group of seven and expect that there will be ongoing discussion and conversation among our group and our colleagues in the Big East as we continue to pursue our evolution,” the presidents said in a statement issued by Georgetown.

Under Big East bylaws, schools must give 27 months notice before departing. But members of both the breakaway schools and what will remain of the Big East have intimated that it would help both sides move forward if that timetable were escalated.

In addition, the seven schools must decide how many and what schools to invite to join their league before shopping their broadcasting rights. Also at issue: who will keep the Big East name.

 
Read what others are saying