By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 5, 2011; D03
Much has been made of freshman forward Nate Lubick's contributions since replacing Hollis Thompson in Georgetown's starting lineup three games ago. But Thompson might deserve equal credit for the Hoyas' unblemished record since he went from starter to invaluable sixth man.
"We've been winning, so how could I complain?" Thompson said. "As long as it works for the team, it works for me."
So far, the lineup change has accomplished what Coach John Thompson III hoped. Lubick's larger frame and aggressive approach has bolstered the interior defense. And Thompson has been a scoring threat as a reserve.
"Having another scoring option like Hollis off the bench adds firepower and depth," senior point guard Chris Wright said. "We don't have to worry about Hollis guarding a bigger, stronger guy. That's Nate's forte."
Although Thompson's playing time has declined - from 22 minutes per game as a starter to 20 minutes as a substitute - his importance to the Hoyas has not.
In his debut as a reserve, he scored 15 points (almost seven more than his season average) and grabbed six rebounds against St. John's. Against Louisville, he put the Hoyas ahead for good with a clutch three-pointer in the final minutes. And when Georgetown (17-5, 6-4 Big East) hosts Providence (14-9, 3-7) on Saturday, Thompson could play a prominent role against a team that clogs up the paint and forces opposing players to shoot jumpers. Guard-forward Marshon Brooks (23.3 points per game) and the Friars have won three of four, including back-to-back upsets of Louisville and Villanova last month.
"At the end of the day, it's not important who's out there when the score is 0-0 with 40 minutes on the clock," John Thompson III said of Hollis Thompson. "He knows we need him, and he knows more often than not, he's going to be out there at the end."
Hollis Thompson's teammates said the maturity with which he accepted the decision has been as important as the contributions he's made on the court.
"A lot of guys could have easily pouted after being told to sit [after] he started so many games this late in the season," senior Julian Vaughn said. "If anything, he's really embraced it and really energized us the past couple of games by giving us a huge spark off the bench. He's been playing great defense, getting key rebounds and hitting big shots for us and helping us however he can."
For Hollis Thompson, switching roles is another major midseason change in a collegiate career that began with one. A native of Los Angeles, he enrolled in Georgetown a semester before most members of his freshman class, in January 2009, in the hopes of easing his transition.
"If I'm not a junior, I'm like a super sophomore because when the juniors were freshmen, I was here," he said. "I'm somewhere in between."
Thompson's biggest adjustment to life on the East Coast, he said, came off the court.
"I don't want to put a word on it," he said. "But the difference between L.A.'s more loose lifestyle to Georgetown, [it's] not uptight but more reserved."
Thompson's teammates immediately picked up on his West Coast disposition and, of course, promptly began ribbing him about it. "They laugh and call me 'Hollywood,' " he said.
"We also call him 'The Franchise,' " added Wright, who, when asked if that had anything to do with Thompson's penchant for taking big shots at the end of games, did not disagree.
Indeed, Thompson, who considers himself to be a shooting guard as opposed to a forward as the team roster lists him, possesses the Hoyas' prettiest shot, and he's not afraid to show it off in critical situations. In Georgetown's overtime victory against Missouri early in the season, Thompson misfired on a three-pointer in the final seconds but was bailed out by Wright, who made his attempt as time expired in regulation. In a loss at Temple, Thompson missed a driving layup with five seconds remaining.
But he redeemed himself against Louisville. With the score tied at 55 and about two minutes remaining, Thompson got a hand-off and screen from Vaughn, then delivered a long three-pointer that essentially sealed the Hoyas' fifth straight win. He kept his right hand high in the air as he jogged back on defense.
"What I want is someone who knows when you should shoot it, and when you shouldn't," John Thompson said. "So the difference between the Louisville game and the other two games was that he should have taken that shot."
What else would you expect from a player with a flair for the dramatic, a glamorous nickname and interest in showbiz?
"I'm in a couple acting classes here," he said with a smile. "I'm trying to get into a play. So there might be a little bit of actor in me. Not too much, though."