Georgetown heads into the meat of its nonconference schedule with a pair of positive developments rising to the fore.
As the 18th-ranked Hoyas (4-1) enter a four-game stretch that includes games against unbeaten Oregon, No. 11 Duke and giant-slayer Oral Roberts, coach John Thompson III has to be encouraged by the play of first-year starters Jessie Sapp and DaJuan Summers.
Sapp seems to improve every time he steps on the floor. The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard has turned an area that looked to be one of the team’s major preseason weaknesses (ball-handling) into a surprising strength.
The Manhattan native is a rare hoops commodity — a jitterbug guard who plays with NYC flair but without its standard allowance of accompanying turnovers.
“He’s a great passer,” Georgetown forward Jeff Green said after Sapp’s most recent masterpiece, an eight-assist, zero-turnover performance in the Hoyas’ walkover against Ball State. “He’s got that New York style — he can make a pass from anywhere, and that’s a plus for our team.”
In Georgetown’s five games, Sapp has 17 assists and only four turnovers. That otherworldly assist-to-turnover ratio (4.3) makes even the nation’s elite guards look somewhat sloppy. Compare that efficiency with the ratios of ballyhooed backcourt performers like Marquette’s Dominic James (1.8), Duke’s Greg Paulus (1.2), Alabama’s Ronald Steele (2.4) or UCLA’s Darren Collison (3.1) and you can be certain Thompson is pleased.
“Jessie’s a ball player,” Thompson said after Sapp’s show against Ball State. “He’s slowly developing. And people forget he’s going through the same growth process that all the freshmen are going through. He’s playing significant key minutes that he didn’t play last year. We have three kids that have gone through what we need to [Jon Wallace, Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert], and the rest of them are learning things, experiencing things for the first time.”
Summers has been cast into that first-time fire as a true freshman. But the 6-8, 241-pound forward has lived up to his billing as one of the nation’s top recruits. In Georgetown’s last two games, Summers’ first two as a starter, the Baltimore native averaged a team-high 14.5 points a while shooting 68.7 percent from the field.
“It’s kind of tough for other teams to guard him because he’s a big guard/forward,” Green said of Summers. “He can play a lot of different positions. He can dribble. He can shoot. He can pass. It’s kind of tough for opposing teams to get ready for him because they don’t know if he’s going to play inside or out.”
Assuming opposing teams check Hibbert and Green with their biggest and most athletic frontcourt players, respectively, few squads have another big man to devote to Summers, creating matchup problems.
Perhaps the best news for the Hoyas in respect to the steady progress of Sapp and Summers is the pressure it takes off of the team’s junior nucleus of key performers, particularly from behind the 3-point arc. Summers is a solid outside shooter (37.5 percent from 3-point range) who is almost always open from deep given his length. And if Sapp continues to mature into the team’s lead guard, Wallace will be able to focus more on his strengths as the team’s best spot-up 3-point shooter (45.8 percent).
The result is a starting five with the size and skills to dominate offensively in a variety of ways — shooting, posting up, passing, dribble-drive, etc.
In fact, Georgetown’s primary weakness is now clearly on the defensive end, where only Sapp (1.6 steals) would currently grade out as a consistently superb performer. That suspect defense undoubtedly will be tested by both high-octane Oregon and Duke (Saturday) over the next few days.
“We know it’s going to be very intense,” Green said of tonight’s rematch with an Oregon squad the Hoyas pounded 71-57 last season, snapping the Ducks’ 35-game nonconference winning streak at McArthur Court. “They’re going to come in with payback on their minds because we went out to Oregon last year and beat them on their own floor, and they’re going to try and do the same thing to us.”