- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 24, 2007

Georgetown’s Jeff Green is on the verge of ending a 15-year drought.

That’s how long it has been since a Hoya was named the Big East player of the year. While Allen Iverson (1996) and Mike Sweetney (2003) have come close in the interim, Alonzo Mourning (1992) was the last player to earn the conference’s highest individual honor for Georgetown — which boasts a Big East high six MVP selections.

Not that Green cares.

Entering today’s pivotal conference collision between the 12th-ranked Hoyas (21-5, 11-2 Big East) and No. 10 Pittsburgh (24-4, 11-2), the 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward is almost certainly among the favorites to win the league’s player of the year.

“I don’t care about all that stuff,” Green said after recording 19 points, nine rebounds and eight blocks in Georgetown’s 58-55 over Villanova in Philadelphia last week. “I’m interested in winning games, not awards.”

Ask Green about the numbers he has posted in February (19.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists), and the numbers he’ll come back with are 10 (games in Georgetown’s current victory streak) and 1989 (the last time the Hoyas won the league’s outright regular season crown).

Interestingly, Green’s selfless demeanor has been alternately both his greatest attribute and his most glaring weakness.

A year after Green established himself as one of the league’s premier back-to-the-basket players en route to sharing Big East rookie of the year honors with Rudy Gay in 2005, coach John Thompson III pushed Green to the perimeter to make room for blossoming 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert.

Green struggled with the change during most of last season and a good chunk of this one, but never breathed a complaint.

Still, well after Green’s skills had caught up with his new position, his confidence and comfort level had not. The same demeanor that made him more than willing to make room for Hibbert also made him somewhat reticent to stake his own claim to the perimeter. In four of Georgetown’s five losses this season, not only did Green suffer single-digit scoring nights, he took eight or fewer shots.

During Georgetown’s current 10-game winning streak, Green has taken fewer than 10 shots only once, and that was in a rout of Rutgers in which Thompson rested all his starters. The key to the run that has Georgetown being mentioned as a Final Four dark horse is simple: Green has been more assertive.

“He’s taken over,” Georgetown sophomore Jessie Sapp said. “He’s playing at a whole other level and pulling us all up there with him.”

Though no coaches were willing to reveal how they voted for player of the year, all agreed that team success was more important than raw numbers.

“The ultimate standard for a player is if they make their team better, if they help their team win,” said Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon, who hopes hobbled center Aaron Gray (14.5 points, 10.0 rebounds) can make his case today against the Hoyas. “Winning is the most important thing, so success is a key factor [in voting].”

That’s good news for Green, who averages only 13.7 points on the season, and bad news for a player like Syracuse forward Demetris Nichols, who leads the league in scoring (18.9 points) but plays for an Orange team (19-8, 8-5) poised precariously on the NCAA tournament bubble.

“Right now, I think you have to give [the player of the year] to Green,” New York Daily News writer Dick Weiss said last week. “He’s been the best player on what has been the league’s best team, and he’s playing his best when it matters most. In fact, his toughest competition might be on his own team.”

Weiss also suggested that perhaps Green’s primary competition for player of the year honors is Hibbert.

Hibbert is approaching the NCAA record for single-season field goal percentage set by Oregon State’s Steve Johnson in 1981 (74.6 percent). The Georgetown center enters today’s game shooting 70.2 percent while averaging 12.8 points and 6.4 rebounds. Hibbert’s 1.87 points an attempt this season make him the nation’s most efficient scorer and those numbers are likely the reason he joined Green on the list of Naismith finalists released yesterday.

“If I told you [who I was voting for], it wouldn’t be a secret ballot,” Marquette coach Tom Crean said. “Certainly, you’ve got two of the [candidates] there in Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert.”

Of the pair, however, Green has been more consistent of late and features the far more versatile skill set, reasons why at least one Big East coach who demanded anonymity deemed Green the clear front runner.

“There’s still a week or so left, so crazy things could happen,” the coach said. “But right now, there’s no question who the best player in the league has been this season. Jeff Green is a dream. Sure, he could board a little better, but he does everything else, everything — shoot, share, handle — better than any other player his size in the league. I’d love to know the coach who tells you different, so I could stop studying his film.”

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