- - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NEW YORK — At the end of last season, Otto Porter wasn’t named to the Big East All-Rookie team, a stunning oversight by the league that rankled Georgetown coach John Thompson III and surprised even the mild-mannered Porter.

Porter was vindicated Wednesday at Big East media day, as the sophomore was named to the preseason All-Big East first team after the league’s coaches recognized an eye-opening campaign that saw the Sikeston, Mo., native never flinch from big-time competition.

“It’s a blessing to be on the first team,” Porter said. “I try to look at it as a stepping stone — hard work pays off. But I’m just trying to stay focused and confident this season.”

Porter averaged 9.7 points and 6.8 rebounds to help the Hoyas win their first NCAA tournament game since 2008, stepping to the forefront on an experienced team with an assuredness that belied his years. Now, the assumption is Porter will be the focal point for the Hoyas in 2012-13.

“This is a responsibility — some might say burden — that he has, because he can excel in every different area, be good in every different area and I think he’s improved in every different area,” Thompson said. “That’s the honest truth. We’ll see the benefits once we get on the court.”

The coaches also thought better of the Hoyas overall this season, placing the team in fifth in the preseason poll — five spots higher than last year, when Georgetown stunned nearly everyone with a 24-9 overall mark and a fourth-place finish in the Big East at 12-6.

Louisville was the unanimous choice to win the conference, with Syracuse, Notre Dame and Cincinnati also placing ahead of the Hoyas.

“I predicted us anywhere from sixth through tenth,” said junior forward Nate Lubick, one of three players, along with Porter and guard Markel Starks, to represent Georgetown at the event. “I was shocked.”

With his young squad — there are no seniors on the Hoyas’ roster — Thompson is taking a wait-and-see approach to how his team is being viewed.

“I’m not sure, to be honest,” Thompson said about whether the team’s poll placement was fair. “With the group that we have, we have to grow. I think that if we grow as I anticipate we, by the time everything is said and done, we’re going to be one of the better teams in the conference. I feel pretty comfortable with that.”

This year’s media day was once again tied into the state of flux in which the conference finds itself. New Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said in his opening remarks that the conference “was on the move,” and he’s certainly right about that.

Gone was West Virginia, with Bob Huggins taking his brutally candid remarks about his team to the Big 12. With one foot out the door were Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two scions of the league set to depart to the ACC. Notre Dame is the latest defection, although Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey suggested his team wouldn’t be leaving for the ACC until 2014. Add in the recent retirement of Big East patriarch Jim Calhoun from Connecticut, and the league as many know it is no more.

“It’s sad,” Brey said.

But Thompson remained pragmatic about the future of the conference, even as the program’s storied rivalry with Syracuse appears on life support after the teams’ final Big East showdown on March 9.

“The Georgetown-Syracuse tradition and rivalry is something special, is something that’s been an event in this conference,” he said. “That changes, but I think that as it relates to everyone else leaving relative to the teams coming in, it’s different. I don’t think it will be better or worse. Just different.

“When you say Big East basketball, there are a few images and names, John Thompson being one of them, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim — those things pop into your head,” he added. “There’s no doubt about that. But you will have others that are going to fill that void.”

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