NBA scouts have been an obvious presence at Georgetown games this season, sometimes as many as a dozen or the four or five expected for today's Big East Conference game at MCI Center against St. John's. They want to be as prepared as possible in case power forward Mike Sweetney opts for their league this summer, instead of returning for his senior season with the Hoyas.
Some questions remain about Sweetney, among them why he has not been a more dominant rebounder against frequently undersized players. About midway through the regular season for Georgetown (9-3, 1-1), however, a clear consensus seemed to have been reached: He's ready.
NBA rules prohibit the scouts from commenting publicly about an underclass prospect, but several who spoke on the condition of anonymity agreed that the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Sweetney would be a lottery pick if he chose to make himself available for the draft. He might well be among the top six or so chosen depending on the number of underclass and foreign players in the draft pool.
Sweetney remains noncommittal.
"Right now, my mind-set is to be back here playing basketball," he said before preparations continued for the Red Storm. "I told my mom and dad I'll get my degree. Right now, I'm just worried about getting through the season, things like that, doing the best I can."
Coach Craig Esherick preaches patience and focus to Sweetney.
"I'm doing everything I can to make Mike somebody that the NBA would love to have," he said. "But you don't make any kind of decision until the end of the year. A lot of kids get into academic difficulty when they start talking about that early in their career or early in their school year [before opting for the NBA draft]. They let their academics fall."
Esherick said that happened to 6-11 Lee Scruggs, who after transferring from a Florida junior college had a sensational half-season for the Hoyas three years ago that buoyed his NBA dreams. But he let his schoolwork slide and, after realizing his NBA potential was not what he had been told by a close friend, was academically ineligible the first semester of his senior season at Georgetown.
Scruggs was not drafted and has been playing in the NBA's developmental league.
For Sweetney, NBA scouts have been impressed with the discipline he showed by shedding at least 20 pounds before this season, his hands and his ability score inside and shoot free throws. He also has been effective at times handling the ball in the back court against pressure defenses.
"Mike impresses me the more I dig," one scout said. "When Craig went off on the officiating [after the West Virginia game Sunday], Mike took the high road, said he didn't want to get in trouble. A lot of kids would have said: 'Yeah, this [is awful].' But Georgetown is going to have to keep winning. Great players make other people around them better."
Another scout said Sweetney probably should lose another 10 pounds.
"He's quick enough, has very good hands," the scout said. "But he doesn't jump as well as I'd thought he would. He should be the dominant force. He's just a good rebounder."
Whenever he is asked about areas of improvement, Sweetney mentions rebounding and defense. Sweetney's statistics this season are similar to last, when he earned first-team all-conference honors. He is fifth in scoring (21.6), third in rebounding (9.8), fifth in field-goal percentage (.541) and fourth in blocked shots (2.92).
Scouts know that Sweetney needs a face-the-basket game, which includes a jump shot in the 15-foot range. Sweetney smiles and says: "I know I have it. But we have a lot of guys here who can knock down those shots."
Hoyas Note: Freshman guard Ashanti Cook (ankle) will miss his third straight game, Esherick said, and swingmen Gerald Riley (foot) and Darrel Owens (ankle) are probable.