Hoyas in transition

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\ Yesterday’s crucial cogs are tomorrow’s graduates, so expect to see the Hoyas devote more and more practice time and in-game focus to pushing the tempo whenever possible. Here are a few thoughts on the changing of the guard:\

\ Sunday’s blowout victory over Jacksonville (87-55) provided a perfect microcosm of the strengths and weaknesses of different elements on the roster. Coach John Thompson Jr. became agitated in the postgame interviews after players fielded repeated questions concerning Sunday’s accelerated pace, claiming that fastbreak basketball was more the byproduct of defense than a conscious choice offensively.\

\ “It’s Basketball 101,” he screamed.\

\ Of course, that’s true. The phrase “transition offense” obviously refers to offense generated by making a quick transition from defense to offense. However, Georgetown didn’t just start playing excellent defense last week against Jacksonville; the Hoyas currently rank third in the nation in field goal percentage defense (34.7), and JT3 has routinely stated that his team is more advanced on that end of the floor than on the offensive end thus far this season.\

\ But what Georgetown did choose to do on Sunday was to turn that quality defense into a quick-strike offense, scrapping the customary patience of their Princeton-based halfcourt sets to push the ball quickly upcourt. It was, in fact, a choice, aided to a large degree by Jacksonville’s poor ball security, porous transition defense and desire to turn the game into a sprint. And it was a choice that required a different personnel group to be effective.\

\ The primary reason Georgetown hasn’t run much at all over the last three years is personnel, not a lack of pressure defense. They didn’t have the backcourt depth nor frenetic on-ball defenders. What they did and do have is two marvelous halfcourt pieces in Jonathan Wallace and Roy Hibbert. Both are far better basketball players than athletes. Both are halfcourt surgeons - the best shooter in the program’s history and a 7-footer ready to join the Hilltop’s Holy Trinity of low posts (Ewing, Mutombo, Mourning).\

\ But … neither can run. Hibbert gets up and down the floor exponentially better than he did upon arriving at Georgetown. But he’s still far better in the halfcourt (has he ever thrown an outlet pass?). And Wallace, despite his history of naysayer-mocking performances, is not a fastbreak point guard. In fact, most of his turnovers this season have come when he’s tried to push the ball. For all of his strengths, and there are many, Wallace is not a lockdown defender, a blur of a ball-handler nor an excellent passer.\

\ Those three attributes would be the strengths of the classic transition point man, and a vintage version arrived at Georgetown this season in the form of freshman Chris Wright.\

\ In just a few short weeks of limited practice time (remember Wright is still playing on an ankle that is less than a 100 percent), the quicksilver frosh has already proved he has the uncanny ability to push the ball up the floor and find releasing wings DaJuan Summers or Patrick Ewing Jr. with spot-on long passes that result in transition lay-ups or trips to the free throw line. Make no mistake, Wright is the program’s point of the future.\

\ And with Wright in a lineup featuring Summers or Ewing, lockdown defenders Jeremiah Rivers or Jessie Sapp, fellow frosh Austin Freeman and 6-10 gazelle Vernon Macklin, Georgetown has the capability to be a dazzling up-tempo team. Variations of that personnel group blew Jacksonville off the floor on Sunday, turning a 12-5 game nearly midway through the first half into a 39-21 laugher at intermission with Hibbert and Wallace on the bench.\

\ Given that Hibbert and Wallace (as well as Ewing) are seniors, that style is the future of the program, because next season’s personnel is going to be far better on the move than in the halfcourt. Watching Thompson balance the two styles and personnel groups over the remainder of the season is going to be fascinating. As Summers stated on Sunday, that duality gives the Hoyas the chance to be “scary good” this season, because only North Carolina and UCLA also have both gears. Memphis does not, which makes Georgetown’s game against the No. 2 Tigers later this month (Dec. 22) the most intriguing game of the Hoyas’ pre-conference slate.\

\ The Tigers want to run, and Georgetown could oblige them at times to gauge their progress as a transition team. But the Tigers aren’t nearly as efficient as the Hoyas in the halfcourt set. And regardless of the Vegas line or site (FedEx Forum), Hibbert, Wallace and the patient Georgetown scheme gives the Hoyas an edge in this game.\ \ \ — Barker Davis

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