ATLANTA -- At a level at which chemistry often trumps talent, perhaps Georgetown boasts the Final Four's ultimate compound.
Basketball coaches often refer to their players as parts they attempt to assemble into one successful machine. Georgetown coach John Thompson III has spent all season tweaking his blue-and-gray engine. And the product he's preparing to put on the floor in tomorrow night's Final Four semifinal against Ohio State runs with rarely a knock.
Seven principal pieces, each with a differing personality and role, operate as one to achieve a universally embraced goal. Here's a closer look at each.
Every team needs a bona fide superstar, and the Hoyas (30-6) clearly have one in Jeff Green. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior forward from Hyattsville is the quintessential five-tool player. No other player in Atlanta can match Green's versatility as a shoot, pass, post, dribble and defend weapon.
"There's not another player in the nation that I've seen who can beat you in as many different ways as Jeff Green," Connecticut's Jim Calhoun said earlier this season. "And it's one thing to have all those tools and quite another to know how and when to use them. What always amazes me about him is how rarely he forces his game."
The final part of Calhoun's assessment touches on perhaps Green's greatest attribute. Green's ego, or lack thereof, has never blurred his team-first focus. Nothing fosters team unity and respect like an unselfish star.
That said, there's no question who will get the ball for the Hoyas in a one-possession situation. As he proved time and again by delivering last-second game-winners against Villanova, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, Green is the Hoyas' money player with the game in the balance. His right to that role is unquestioned among his teammates, and that certainty alone is invaluable in situations in which hesitation or conflicting egos can lead to disaster.
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True centers are becoming a rarity, but Georgetown has one of the nation's best in 7-foot-2 junior Roy Hibbert. Once a gangly project, Hibbert has matured into a back-to-the-basket beast. Interestingly, Hibbert's background as a hard worker rather than an athletic wunderkind like Ohio State's Greg Oden, combined with Green's constant stream of praise for his pivot man, has allowed Georgetown's frontcourt to blossom into a friction-free force.
"When the big fella gets going, we know he can carry us," Green said. "We're at our best when Roy puts the team on his shoulders, and we're working inside-out."
Georgetown's unheralded hero is junior point man Jonathan Wallace. Thompson once called the one-time walk-on from Harvest, Ala., "Mini-Me" because Wallace is the equivalent of an on-court coach.
"You look at [Wallace], and he's not the fastest person in the world. He's not the strongest person, never will be. But he has character, he has guts and he's a good man," Thompson said. "He's willed his way through so many situations and is someone who has gotten the most of his God-given ability. You win with people like Jon Wallace."
Wallace has started all 101 games since he set foot on campus, and his hoops IQ is extraordinary. He rarely takes a bad shot. And in the NCAA tournament, he has teamed with fellow guard Jessie Sapp to post an extraordinary 3.8-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Though he shoots less than any other starter, Wallace is a killer in the clutch (just ask North Carolina) and makes nearly half of his 3-point attempts.
Sapp is the perfect safety valve for Thompson's patient Princeton offense, as well as the team's most athletic perimeter defender. On the rare occasions when the team's offense doesn't locate an open look in 25 seconds or so, the sophomore guard from Harlem almost always creates one with his repertoire of playground-style improvisational moves.
"Jessie's got that New York flash to his game," Wallace said. "When all else fails, we know we can get it to Jessie, and he can create a shot for himself or someone else with penetration."
The only freshman among Georgetown's starters, forward DaJuan Summers is the team's self-professed "icebreaker," more often than not taking Georgetown's first shot. The 6-8 forward from Baltimore erupted at the Meadowlands, averaging 17.5 points and 6.5 rebounds to make the East Region's all-tournament team.
He has the best pure perimeter stroke of any Georgetown player and arrived on the Hilltop as the highest ranked recruit among any of the regulars (consensus top 25). As his role suggests, Summers is a touch precocious and utterly fearless, a commodity in demand on a team that at times can be overly selfless.
Patrick Ewing Jr. might not be the dominating force his father was at Georgetown, but it's easy to argue he has had as much impact as any other player this season. The 6-8 junior transfer from Indiana brings energy, swagger and a touch of nasty to a team that needed to add a dose of passion to its defining precision.
"When Pat comes on the floor, everybody instantly picks their game up," Green said of the team's sixth man. "His energy is contagious."
Georgetown's principal weakness entering this season was backcourt depth, more specifically ball-handling and perimeter defense. Freshman Jeremiah Rivers, son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, has provided an instant answer to both primary backcourt concerns.
"One of the things I like best about our team is its balance and attitude," Thompson said. "Unlike last season, this season I feel like we have seven or eight starters. This is a group that has always been willing to learn and work hard, and I think because of that we have a lot of balance and a variety of options and answers."