The tiniest smirk crawled across Patrick Ewing’s face as the question was asked, a small curl starting from the right corner of his mouth. The expression was a quick acknowledgment of an inquiry Ewing knew would be coming during his virtual Big East media day session Wednesday.
“It is what it is,” Ewing said. “We lost a lot of guys. When you look at the amount of talent that was lost, that should have been here . . . I would pick us last.
“But there’s a song, ‘Started from the bottom now we’re here.’ It’s preseason, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Hoyas, like most teams, don’t have their 2020-21 schedule set because of the uncertainty of the novel coronavirus. The pandemic canceled all summer workouts and forced training camp to start late. Every team is dealing with those factors. Georgetown-specific issues involve personnel, specifically the departure of six of the Hoyas’ top eight scorers from the start of last season.
Four players transferred during the 2019-20 season, Omer Yurtseven opted to enter the NBA draft, and Mac McClung transferred to Texas Tech after communication issues with Ewing.
The exits created opportunities for nine new players, including three graduate transfers and six freshmen. The program, which was 15-17 when the pandemic hit, is hitting reset in Ewing’s fourth season at the helm.
“Definitely is a restart,” said Ewing, who is 49-46 in three seasons at his alma mater and is still seeking his first NCAA bid. “We lost a lot. We lost six talented, athletic guys that were going to be the focal point of our team. So we had to start all over. We had to make sure the guys coming back . . . we need for them to make a jump in terms of getting themselves prepared for the battle that we’re going to be going into. Then these new guys, we have [nine] new faces that we are trying to adjust and learn and see how we’re going to be able to incorporate.
“Usually in the summertime you have that opportunity to do that. Because of the pandemic, we weren’t able to do that.”
That leaves the Hoyas embarking on an awfully strange campaign. Guard Jahvon Blair and forward Jamorko Pickett will be expected to take significant steps forward after averaging 10.8 and 10.2 points, respectively, last season. The only other returning player who made a start last season is center Qudus Wahab.
Ewing didn’t want to entertain the challenge of trying to predict a starting lineup with so many unknowns.
Two of the newcomers that will draw the most eyes will be Arkansas transfer Jalen Harris and freshman Jamari Sibley. Harris (6-foot-2, 166 pounds) is a pass-first distributor and a strong defender who averaged six points and four assists while making 39 starts in two seasons with the Razorbacks.
Sibley is a 6-8, 200-pound four-star forward out of Oak Hill Academy (Va.). The long, athletic forward was ranked 101st in the country by recruiting site 247Sports as the headliner of Georgetown’s class, which the site ranked 53rd.
“It definitely made me feel some type of way,” Pickett said about being picked to finish last. “But being an underdog is a good thing. Definitely motivates us to prove [wrong] whoever made those rankings and whoever feels like we should be 11th in the Big East.
“Me and Jahvon are the seniors, we have been here the longest, but this isn’t tennis. We need everyone to be on the same page at all times in order to accomplish the goal that we’re trying to accomplish. … It’s a great opportunity for me. I think I’m definitely ready, me and Jahvon both. … Things happened at the end of the season and even during our season that was unexpected and I was kind of pushed into this role that I have now. I’m just ready to take it on head on.”
Note: The Big East announced the creation of the John Thompson Jr. Award, honoring the late Hoyas coach. The award will recognize efforts to fight prejudice, end discrimination and advance positive societal change. An individual, team or athletic department can win the award voted on by a selection committee that will include a member of the Thompson family.
“Few individuals are associated with our conference more than Coach Thompson,” Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman said. “He quite literally put the Big East on the map. We’re very, very grateful to the Thompson family for allowing us to honor his memory in this way.
“We hope the award will provide additional inspiration and motivation and carry forward the principles that Coach Thompson fought for.”
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