By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 29, 2011; D01
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III hasn't offered a detailed explanation for inserting freshman Nate Lubick into the starting lineup this week. The reason, though, appears evident: Lubick brings a measure of toughness and tenacity to a team in need of exactly those elements as it aims to climb back into contention in the rugged Big East.
"I want to come in and be somebody who doesn't back down from anyone, who's going to get after it on both ends of the floor, who's going to bring a sense of toughness and pride to the program," Lubick said. "When it comes to basketball, it's all business for me."
When Lubick commits a foul or sets a screen, he looks to leave a mark. When the power forward pursues a loose ball, he'll sprawl on the floor if necessary. And when he's in the lane, his 6-foot-9, 238-pound frame causes opponents to think twice about venturing there.
"He's the prototypical Big East front-court player," Thompson said. "He's a big, rugged kid, and he gives us a presence inside."
Lubick's first collegiate start, against St. John's on Wednesday, was an uneven one. He committed four turnovers, missed a layup and picked up two fouls in a forgettable first-half performance.
In the second half, however, he showed glimpses of the well-rounded player Thompson hopes he'll become. Lubick had a steal, grabbed five of his six rebounds, was credited with a pair of assists and scored his six points, including a dunk that put an exclamation point on the 77-52 blowout win.
He also played a significant role in holding the Red Storm to 33.9 percent shooting, a stat that underscored the Hoyas' best defensive effort of the season.
Thompson said Lubick will be in the starting lineup again when No. 21 Georgetown (15-5, 4-4) travels to Philadelphia for a showdown Saturday against No. 8 Villanova (17-3, 5-2). The Hoyas have won three straight, their longest in-conference streak in four seasons. Corey Fisher and the guard-heavy Wildcats, meantime, will be seeking to rebound from a humbling loss to Providence on Wednesday.
"If I struggled at the beginning," Lubick said, scoffing at the suggestion that nerves contributed to his early struggles against St. John's, "that's what motivated me to put everything together in the second half."
Lubick's intensity and competitiveness, he said, come from his father.
Dave Lubick coached him at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Mass., where they won two New England Prep Class C titles together.
"He's probably about the most intense guys you'll ever meet," Lubick said of his father, who now coaches another son, Eli, a Colgate recruit. "Dad always preached toughness to me, and my AAU coach John Carroll, the old coach of the Celtics, he was always huge on being tough, too."
Asked about his off-court persona, Lubick chuckled. "I might not be the nicest person to everybody," he cracked.
Lubick said he weighed 170 pounds, was "perceived as soft" and "only took threes" as a freshman and sophomore at St. Mark's. But as he filled into his frame, he became more comfortable asserting himself, particularly in the paint, and as a senior he averaged 21.7 points, 10 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
Jeff Goodman, a senior college basketball writer for FoxSports.com, said it's just a matter of time before Lubick enjoys a similar breakout at Georgetown.
"He's a skilled player, and no one has been able to see that yet," said Goodman, who has closely followed Lubick's career. "He can flat-out score. By the time he's a junior or senior, he could potentially be an all-Big East type guy."
Against Villanova, the Hoyas will focus on delivering a second consecutive strong performance on defense, especially along the perimeter because guards Fisher, Corey Stokes and Maalik Wayns average a combined 45.1 points - or about 59 percent of the Wildcats' total.
"Their back court is among the best in the country," Thompson said, "and their front-court players are extremely aggressive in terms of crashing the boards and setting screens and making sure the perimeter guys get those shots."
Another shutdown effort on defense, however, isn't all Thompson is eager to see.
"We need more out of Nate," he said of Lubick, who through 20 games is averaging 3.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists. "He has the ability and the understanding and the talent level to give us even more than he has been giving. We need to get him involved more and good things will happen for our team."
Hoyas note: Thompson will wear a pink tie, sneakers with pink accents and a breast cancer ribbon in observance of Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers awareness weekend, he said. The players' socks and shoes also will be embroidered with the pink ribbon.
Thompson's wife, Monica, is a breast cancer survivor.