Georgetown Coach John Thompson is contemplating a major lineup shift that would put four guards into the starting lineup in an admitted gamble to alleviate the team's rebounding shortcomings in the Great Alaska Shootout.
"You go with a bigger lineup and get more rebounds or you go with a smaller lineup and get more steals to make up for the rebounds," Thompson said. "We have to get more possessions."
His legs stretched out in an open space of a DC-10 cabin an hour out of Anchorage, where his team was badly outrebounded in losses to North Carolina and Louisiana State, Thompson this was not a time to panic. Still, he planned to work on these alternatives.
These are contingency plans if none among Mike Hancock, Jeff Bullis and freshman Ray Knight improves enough in the next five weeks prior to Georgetown's Big East opener Jan. 7 at St. John's.
Thompson wants to stay with his current style of play, which took the Hoyas to a 26-6 record and the NCAA quarterfinals last season. But there is no Craig Shelton on this team, so that means Hancock, Bullis or Knight must produce.
"Now is the time for potentiality to become actuality," Thompson said. "We've got to become a better rebounding team. If you're not fast, you've got to be fast. You can't have neither one and expect to play."
Thompson is looking for consistent aggressiveness from the power-forward position. Only in the second half against tiny Nicholls State and in the first half against North Carolina did he see it. "We rebound better when we substitute and get smaller," Thompson observed.
That's what has him thinking of gambling, much along the lines of the 1964 UCLA team that won the NCAA championship with no starter taller than 6-foot-5.
Fred Brown, now the starting point guard, and Gene Smith, a 6-2 guard from McKinley Tech and quicker than any 1979 Hoya, are both excellent defensive prospects.
Brown also is a strong rebounder for a guard. In the four-guard plan (Thompson considers "small forward" Eric Smith one of a three-guard alignment now), Brown and Gene Smith would be the forwards, with Gene Smith playing the point alongside pre-season all-America selection Eric (Sleepy) Floyd.
Ed Spriggs, who consistently played as well as any Hoya in Alaska, would be the center. He is 6-9 with the agility of a small forward.
But Thompson would rather keep Brown at the point. "I hope I don't have to sacrifice his ball-handling ability in order to put him closer to the boards," Thompson said.
The other possible changes involve using 7-foot senior Mike Frazier at center and moving Spriggs to the power forward. That lineup limits mobility and Frazier must get in the physical condition to be able to run with quality teams.
Thompson also thinks that Knight may develop into an acceptable power forward who will let the Hoyas keep their current style of play -- pressure man-to-man defense with varieties of zones and a controlled running offense, both predicated on quickness.
"Of the three kids (vying for the primary spot at power forward)," Thompson said, "Knight is the only one I can afford to be patient with."
Thompson also pointed out that these are not panic moves, but contingencies.
"This tournament (in which the three games do not count against the 27-game regular-season limit) means right now we're ahead of ourselves because we know some of the things. Now you have to go back and produce."
And, in a way, Thompson is glad it happened this way, at this time of the year. "We could have played successfully against some teams and thought we had no problems. Then when we get to a North Carolina or an LSU, it would have been a great awakening when it's too late."