- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 16, 2006

“Next year” is typically the tedious battle cry of this year’s losers. In Georgetown’s case, however, the chant carries the weight of future promise without the anchor of current capitulation.

With the Hoyas (6-3) preparing to take on a trio of lightweight opponents, beginning tonight against Winston-Salem State (1-12), it’s time to check in on the recruiting goodies already waiting in Georgetown’s blue-and-gray stocking: namely local high school seniors Austin Freeman (DeMatha) and Chris Wright (St. John’s).

ESPN’s recently revised recruiting rankings list Freeman, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, as the nation’s No. 9 player and Wright, a 6-2 point guard, as No. 20, giving the Hoyas next season’s most coveted incoming backcourt.

Given Georgetown’s pedestrian perimeter play this season, Freeman and Wright can’t arrive on the Hilltop soon enough.

Attesting to the team’s backcourt deficiencies, Georgetown ranks 13th in the Big East in turnover margin (minus-0.44), 12th in the conference in 3-point shooting (34.4 percent) and last among the league’s 16 teams in steals (4.67).

Now, nobody is suggesting that Freeman and Wright will provide an instant backcourt cure-all, but the combo certainly will give coach John Thompson III some talented and willing options.

“When I was going back in forth in recruiting [between Georgetown and N.C. State], Austin and I talked a lot about how cool it would be to play together,” said Wright, who is averaging 21.8 points for unbeaten St. John’s (5-0). “Getting to play with Austin was one of the clinchers, because I think Austin and I will mesh great together. We’re both very aggressive players. I work well with the ball, he moves great without it getting open, and we can both shoot. That’s a pretty good combination.”

How good?

Well, Georgetown hasn’t had a backcourt as potentially explosive since Allen Iverson teamed with Victor Page in 1995-96. Those two, by the way, were a sophomore (Iverson) and freshman (Page) that season and combined to average 37.5 points. And Georgetown hasn’t featured an incoming shooter with Wright’s reputation since Sleepy Floyd arrived on the Hilltop in 1978.

“Wright might be the best pure shooter in this class,” New York Daily News basketball writer Dick “Hoops” Weiss said. “He’s certainly the best shooter on the East Coast.”

Freeman, more of an all-floor, slashing scorer than Wright, is off to a slow start this season after spraining his right foot in the preseason and then aggravating the injury in DeMatha’s opener against Bishop O’Connell. Amazingly, the Stags are 3-1 (their only loss coming to Decatur Christian in Illinois) without Wright or fellow Georgetown recruit Chris Braswell, a 6-8 junior power forward who currently is focusing on his academics.

“I know there are rumors out there that Chris has been put out [of school] or that he’s quit, and none of those things are true,” DeMatha coach Mike Jones said after winning his 100th career game Thursday night against Good Counsel. “He’s really dedicating himself to becoming the total person that he needs to be, and hopefully he will be back with us very soon.”

Freeman expects to return to the lineup next week. And both DeMatha and St. John’s hope to be at full strength and retain their current positions as the area’s top-ranked squads when they meet Jan. 4 at Trinity University.

“It’ll be one of the last times we’ll go against each other wearing different uniforms, and it’s going to be very competitive,” Freeman said of the matchup against Wright. “We’ve become real close and developed a tight friendship. We call each other all the time. That’s one of the reasons we’ve got to beat them. I don’t want to hear it from him if we lose.”

Regardless of the outcome Jan. 4, Thompson and the Hoyas will be wearing the smiles of the ultimate winners.

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