Last March, when Georgetown won 26 games and was the best basketball team in the East, Sleepy Floyd was the Hoyas' third most important player.
Even though Floyd, a sharp-shooting guard, led the team in scoring that season with an 18.7 average, opposing teams spent most of their practice time preparing for seniors John Duren and Craig Shelton. Floyd was a complementary scorer, according to his coach, John Thompson.
"We were so preoccupied with defending Duren and Shelton that we forgot about Floyd," Iowa guard Kenny Arnold said after Floyd scored 31 points on 11-for-14 shooting in a loss to the Hawkeyes in the NCAA regional final. "He's the best shooter I've played against. The fact that everybody was thinking about Duren and Shelton probably made it easier for Sleepy to be effective."
But this season, it has been anything but easy for Floyd, now a junior, to be effective.
With the graduation of Shelton and Duren to the NBA, Floyd became the Hoyas' primary scorer, the man his teammates depended on for the clutch basket, the man double-teamed by every team in the Big East. After a slow start, Floyd has warmed to his increased responsibility. And that is most important to Georgetown as it enters the conference tournament, beginning Thursday, against Seton Hall in Syracuse.
"The transition didn't seem to be that hard," Floyd said yesterday. "I did take longer shots, and it may have hurt the team at first because most of them weren't falling."
In a nine-game stretch that lasted until Jan. 10, Floyd shot barely 40 percent. "I wasn't letting the shots find me," he said. "I was trying to create too much."
When Floyd is at his best, he shoots from behind a teammate's screen or after receiving an open pass; always with both feet together and his body squared toward the basket. But during his early season slump, Floyd was taking shots off the dribble, throwing up off-balance one-handers, and shooting from 25-28 feet while blanketed by defenders.
"I started watching more film," Floyd said. "I was dropping the ball slightly before I went into my jumping motion. It wasn't so visible that everybody could pick it up, but I was slowing down my release. I wasn't going straight up with the shot like I was supposed to."
The flaw corrected, Floyd made eight of 10 shots the next game against Boston College, starting him on a 56 percent shooting streak over the next nine outings. He has leveled off at 47 percent now -- still under his 55 percent mark last season -- but the self-critical Floyd says he is comfortable and satisfied with his overall game again.
Floyd's performance -- unlike that of a lot of pure shooters -- depends largely on his teammates; their ability to maintain the motion Thompson's offense demands. When that offense is run correctly, Floyd should be open (or behind one his taller teammates) from 15 to 18 feet from the basket.
"I'm not taking as many of those 25- and 28-footers," Floyd said. "I've improved my shot selection, which means looking more for the pocket." Floyd's pocket is anywhere on the floor, about 15 feet from the basket. "It's a medium-range jumper," he continued.
A long-range jumper of 28 feet -- perhaps his most important shot of the season -- bounced off the front rim and permitted the Hoyas' loss to Boston College, which won the regular-season Big East title by one game over Georgetown.
Dwan Chandler, a BC guard, said he thought Floyd could take better shots. "He's too smart a player and they're too good a team to settle for those long-range jumpers that often," Chandler said afterward. "He's a great shooter, but sometimes it hurts them because they depend so much on Sleepy."
"My confidence gets me in trouble sometimes because I believe I can hit that shot," Floyd said. "I don't want to be selfish, though."
If he were more selfish, Floyd probably would be averaging three or four more points per game and be recognized as one of college basketball's elite shooters.
"But I don't want to be a one-segment player," Floyd said. "I think I am a scorer now, not just a shooter. And I knew I had to improve my defense and rebounding because it was necessary for us to get into postseason play."
In the last two minutes of a recent two-point victory over Seton Hall, Floyd scored on his odd-looking but effective scoop shot, grabbed two game-saving rebounds after teammates missed free throws and blocked a sure layup.
"Anybody who thought all Sleepy could do is shoot was convinced tonight," Thompson said.
Since Floyd, who was named to the all-conference team, is only seven-tenths of a rebound behind team average leader Mike Frazier and has seven blocked shots this year, he will be expected to do more than score in the conference tournament.
Floyd also expects to see defenses different from those he played against in the regular season, most of which were zones. "I don't mind playing against a man to man," Floyd said, "because I would get off more shots. In a man, the defenders aren't always aware of where you are on the floor and more screens can be set.
"I hope they do try to spot up on me, double-team me," he continued. "But they better beware of a lot of our other players."
The correct Big East first-round pairings Thursday are: 1 p.m. -- Boston College versus Providence; 3 p.m. -- Connecticut versus Villanova; 7 p.m. -- Georgetown versus Seton Hall; 9 p.m. -- St. John's versus Syracuse.