- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

Georgetown basketball’s striking renaissance under John Thompson III continued yesterday as the coach and his staff received a verbal commitment from blue-chip power forward Vernon Macklin of Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.), a consensus top 15 prospect among the class of 2006.

“Georgetown obviously has a strong tradition with big men,” the 6-foot-9, 221-pound Macklin said yesterday in explaining why he chose the Hoyas over North Carolina and Wake Forest. “It also has an excellent academic reputation, so it’s a place where I feel like I can do well on and off the court.

“What maybe got me the most, though, was Coach Thompson. He came to every game I played this summer. He even showed up at some three-on-three games, and that definitely made an impression.”

In the 16 months since taking over Georgetown’s foundering program from Craig Esherick, Thompson has impressed many of his peers. South Carolina coach Dave Odom called the Hoyas “the best-coached team we’ve faced all season” after the Gamecocks squeaked past the Hoyas in the NIT quarterfinals to leave Georgetown with a 19-13 record in Thompson’s debut season.

And both Odom and Connecticut sideline maestro Jim Calhoun used the word “phenomenal” to describe Georgetown’s instant transformation under Thompson.

The program’s momentum has carried into the offseason, where Thompson already has secured commitments from three elite rising seniors, completing a gold-standard recruiting class for next season two months before Midnight Madness signals the start of the 2005-06 campaign.

“Georgetown is just about the hottest thing going right now,” Hargrave coach Kevin Keatts said. “It’s an exciting time up there, if you look at what’s going on with that program. They’re on the fast track back to glory, and Vernon wanted to be part of that.”

Macklin will be joined on the Hilltop by fellow summer commitments Jeremiah Rivers of Winter Park, Fla., and DaJuan Summers of Baltimore. Rivers, the son of NBA player and coach Doc Rivers, is a 6-4 combo guard whose stock fell somewhat after an erratic summer.

But like Macklin, Summers (6-8, 235) has been tagged as a budding superstar, skyrocketing in the recruiting rankings after dominating performances at both the Nike and NBAPA summer camps. Summers was courted at length by Maryland.

According to Rivals.com, Macklin is the No. 12 player in the Class of 2006, while Summers (McDonogh High School) is No. 24 and rising. Georgetown hasn’t signed a pair of prospects with such credentials since McDonald’s All-Americans Allen Iverson and Jahidi White arrived on the Hilltop in 1994.

Georgetown might have its first top 10 recruiting class in a decade. If the Hoyas don’t add another player to the class, and barring transfer or NBA defections, Thompson and Co. are out of scholarships, only Ohio State, North Carolina and Stanford look certain to have stronger groups.

And though Thompson already has secured reinforcements, the near future looks equally bright. In two months, Georgetown will begin the inaugural season of the brutish, new-look Big East armed with an intact starting five that includes leading scorer Brandon Bowman, Big East Rookie of the Year Jeff Green, and 3-point marksman D.J. Owens.

“Coach [Thompson] has got it going again up there,” said Macklin, who goes by the nickname “Big Ticket.” “He’s determined, and he’s a very hard worker. I love that, because I’m all business when the ball goes up. I can’t wait to get up there, because it’s time to go to work. It’s time to ball.”

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