- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2014

George Washington could have used injured guard Kethan Savage in its loss to Memphis in last spring’s NCAA tournament.

And Reggie Miller, who analyzed the game on TBS, kind of called it.

The Hall of Fame shooting guard watched George Washington practice in Raleigh, North Carolina, before its first NCAA appearance since 2007. Away from the Charles E. Smith Center, the Colonials end practices by attempting half-court shots until a player makes one. Prior to their March 21 date with the Tigers at PNC Arena, players’ shots failed to fall from way downtown.

“Kethan!” Miller shouted from the sideline to Savage. “They need you out there to hit that!”

Before Savage fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in January against St. Bonaventure, he had averaged 13.4 points per game as the Colonials’ second-leading scorer. They needed those buckets in Round 2 against Memphis, especially with their leading scorer Maurice Creek converting just 2 of 13 field goals.

Forced to watch March Madness from the bench, Savage found fuel this offseason as he plotted his return.

“That’s the biggest stage in college basketball and one of the biggest stages in the world,” Savage said. “It definitely motivated me.”

He tried to help his teammates in the Atlantic 10 semifinals, coming off the bench for a minute before he re-aggravated his foot injury, which made him sit back down.

His teammates couldn’t see it through without him, and they know how much they were missing in his absence.

“When he really wants to, I think don’t think that there’s anybody that can guard him,” junior guard Joe McDonald said. “He shows it in practice. He showed it when he was playing before he got the injury. So having somebody that can get a shot off whenever and still be able to create for others is huge.”

As he worked his way back, Savage found hope in the success of one of his favorite NBA players, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, who suffered the same injury as a junior at Weber State. Athletes sometimes play hesitantly when they come back from a major injury, Savage said, but he is confident in his foot.

He’ll need to be, as Creek has since departed. But George Washington coach Mike Lonergan believes Savage will be able to fill his shoes.

“When Kethan was hurt, I think watching us motivated him to get his game back to the level that it was at, which was a really high level,” Lonergan said. “He had an ability to be an all-conference player. Truthfully, he would’ve been the most improved player in the league — probably would’ve won that award over Kevin [Larsen],” Colonial forward who earned the honor last season.

Savage’s breakout sophomore season came on the heels of his averaging only 3.1 points per game as a freshman. It will be difficult for Savage to improve this year as much he did the last. But Lonergan does see vast improvements.

“I really feel, in a weird way, his shot got better from just standing around shooting, working on his form and different things,” Lonergan said. “He always had pretty good form, pretty good arc. It just didn’t go in.”

Savage made only 6 of 24 from 3-point range last season. His ability to finish at the rim made up for inconsistent shooting. This year, Lonergan said that if Savage shoots in games like he has in practice, defenders will be helpless.

“[Savage’s] mid-range game is really good,” Lonergan said. “I thought he’d be unguardable if he could get to where he’s got a consistent jump shot because he can go by anybody, but the problem is, some schools don’t guard him because they dare him to shoot. His shot got a little better last year, but I think it’ll make a big jump this year because he’s worked on it a lot.”

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