Sunday, January 9, 2005

Georgetown’s Jeff Green claimed an early lead for the Big East’s Rookie of the Year Award yesterday by dominating a head-to-head matchup against highly publicized forward Rudy Gay of Connecticut.

Green carried the Hoyas in the second half, scoring 17 of his game- and career-high 22 points in a tough 66-59 loss to the No.10 Huskies yesterday at MCI Center.

Gay, who was voted unanimous preseason Big East rookie of the year, finished with a season-low three points on 1-for-6 shooting but did corral seven rebounds. Gay, who was rated the best high school player who didn’t opt for the NBA last year, said he didn’t look at this game as the league’s two best freshman squaring off in a showdown.

“To me, it was just a game — I wasn’t really focusing on that,” Gay said of the matchup between two former Maryland high school stars. “Jeff had a good game, and I didn’t have a good game. Anything can happen on any day. I’ll score a lot on some days and he’ll score a lot on some days. It just didn’t happen [for me] today.”

Green needs work on his public relations skills if he is to win the league’s rookie award. Despite having a career game, Green refused to speak to the media afterward, saying he didn’t feel well.

You wouldn’t have known that by the way Green played. In addition to scoring his points on 8-for-11 shooting, Green registered three assists, two blocks, two rebounds and one steal. Defensively, he held 6-foot-10 center Josh Boone to eight points on 3-for-9 shooting and snapped Boone’s four-game streak of double-doubles.

“I hadn’t played against him until today,” Boone said. “He’s a good player — a very good player. He can do a lot of things on the floor. He showed that he could shoot the ball a little bit, he’s got a lot of post moves and he can rebound real well. … Jeff Green is definitely a good player.”

This was the second time Gay and Green have faced each other and it probably won’t be the last. According to Gay, they played against each other in a summer league game two years ago in Prince George’s County.

The 6-foot-9 Gay, who played at Baltimore’s Archbishop Spalding High School, was a consensus first-team All-American coming out of high school. The 6-8 Green, who led Northwestern of Hyattsville to the Maryland 4A championship last season, received barely a fraction of the attention and hype Gay collected.

Somehow Green was lost in the recruiting process. Syracuse and Pittsburgh came around too late. Maryland wasn’t even in the mix. Former Georgetown coach Craig Esherick swooped in and locked up Green before the national powers started sniffing around.

While Green was flying under the radar, Gay was creating controversy. The NCAA has adopted the “Rudy Gay” clause when it comes to scheduling November exhibitions. Before Gay signed with Connecticut, the Huskies paid $25,000 to play a team called the Beltway Ballers that was stocked with Gay’s former AAU teammates and was formed just to play UConn.

Gay’s choices came down to UConn and Maryland. When Maryland coach Gary Williams found out Gay signed with UConn, he basically accused the Huskies of paying $25,000 to land him. The NCAA looked into the practice of paying to play traveling all-star teams and banned them.

Now NCAA Division I teams can just play other colleges in exhibitions, whether they are classified in Division I, Division II, Division III, or if they are international colleges, especially from Canada.

Green’s huge game boosted his scoring average to 13.1 points — second-best among the Hoyas and just 2.7 behind leader Brandon Bowman’s 15.8. Green leads Georgetown in assists (2.8), blocked shots (1.8), minutes played (33.6) and is its second-leading rebounder (7.0).

“A lot of responsibility has been put on our freshman class,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “Green has a lot of weight on his shoulders. In order for us to be successful, he has to be successful, but Jeff comes to play every day, every game.”

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