- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2005

NEW YORK — Jeff Green is golden.

The freshman forward generated Georgetown’s first scrap of positive publicity in weeks yesterday when he was named the Big East’s Co-Rookie of the Year along with Connecticut’s Rudy Gay.

“It feels good that coaches see that I’m working hard and contributing,” said the 6-foot-9 Hyattsville product, grinning as passersby ogled the gaudy gold globe perched in front of him. “It’s definitely a boost, because it shows you that you’re on the right track as a player. But at the end of the day, it’s not that big of a deal, because I’m all about the team.”

Green and Gay, the ballyhooed Baltimore baller, each earned six first-place and six second-place votes from the coaches in what was obviously a two-player race as early as December.

Green, a difficult player to defend thanks to his ability to score inside and outside, started all 27 games for the Hoyas, averaging 13.2 points and leading the team in rebounds (6.8) and assists (2.9). Gay, an explosive leaper who was the top-ranked prep player not to turn pro in his class, averaged 11.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in just 28.2 minutes per game as the Huskies’ starting swingman.

“I think it worked out for the best, because as I’ve said all season, it would have been criminal for either one of those guys not to be recognized,” said Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, referencing the fact that both were honored as the league’s rookie of the week five times.

Most Georgetown fans would argue with Calhoun’s assessment, pointing out that Green clearly was more valuable to the Hoyas than Gay was to the Huskies. The defending national champions, who boast the deepest frontcourt in the nation, undoubtedly still would be a powerhouse without Gay in the lineup. Green, however, was indispensable to the Hoyas, and that disparity in import was not lost on Georgetown coach John Thompson III.

“In many ways, there’s been a lot more pressure on Jeff than on Rudy because of our personnel, and what we have needed for him to do on a day-in, day-out basis,” Thompson said. “For us to have had any success this year, he had to perform, and he did.”

Green becomes the fifth Georgetown player to win the award, joining Fred Brown (1981), Patrick Ewing (1982), Othella Harrington (1993) and Allen Iverson (1995). And Green could end up making the same sort of national impact as Ewing or Iverson, because he is still growing at a rapid pace.

Green came to the Hilltop as a 6-8 forward from Northwestern High and already is pushing 6-10. Given his athleticism, passing ability and shooting range, several more seasons in the weight room could well yield a more mobile version of Alonzo Mourning.

For the moment, however, Green and the rest of the Hoyas are focused upon tonight’s first-round Big East tournament matchup against Seton Hall and a five-game losing streak that has transformed the Hoyas (16-11, 8-8 Big East) from a near-lock for the NCAA tournament to an outsider in need of a deep run in New York.

“This group can still have success if things go right this week,” Thompson said. “A lot of things have to fall in place and the stars have to align themselves properly, but it can happen.”

Most projections had the Hoyas in the NCAA tournament field before last week’s loss to Providence (68-65). After the late-season slide, the Hoyas likely need two wins this week to play their way back onto the bubble.

Tonight’s first step wouldn’t have seemed like much of a challenge three weeks ago. The Hoyas battered the Pirates 61-51 at MCI Center on Feb. 2 in a game that never seemed that close. The Hoyas never trailed in the contest, making it their only such game in league play. But that was before the squad’s recent five-game swoon.

“It’s the second season now,” said Thompson, all his energy directed toward the future. “We ended the first season on a down note, and now we have to play our way in this week.”

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