- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Big East coaches aren’t allowed to vote for their own school in their annual preseason poll. But if they were able to do so, Patrick Ewing would have been like the rest of his coaching counterparts: “I would pick us last,” the Georgetown coach said.

During Big East media day, the Georgetown coach said Wednesday that he understood why his program was voted to finish dead last in the conference. The ranking stems largely from the gluttony of players who have left the school the past calendar year. Just this past offseason, star guard Mac McClung transferred to Texas Tech and big man Omer Yurtseven declared early for the NBA draft. Then, there were also the in-season transfers of James Akino and Josh LeBlanc.

Ewing, though, issued a word of caution regarding the ranking.

“They have that song: Started from the bottom, now we’re here,” said Ewing, referencing rap artist Drake’s mega-hit. “It’s preseason and we’ll see.”

The reality, however, is that the Hoyas weren’t far from the bottom last season. They finished eighth with a 5-13 record in the conference — just two games ahead of DePaul. For the majority of conference players, injuries and transfers left the Hoyas with just seven players. The school ended the year on a seven-game losing streak.

To avoid falling further, Georgetown will need contributors to emerge from its seven returning players, five incoming freshmen and three grad transfers. The Hoyas received high marks for their recruiting class — with Rivals, a high school scouting website, ranking it 55th overall in the nation. Of the five, 6-foot-8 small forward Jamari Sibley is the team’s highest-rated recruit at 107 overall.

Georgetown is also counting on grad transfers Jalen Harris, Chudler Bile and Donald Carey to make an immediate impact. Ewing said Harris, a 6-foot-2 guard from Arkansas, has “been through the battle” and can be a boost to the backcourt. Bile, a 6-foot-7 forward from Northeastern State, and Carey, a 6-foot-5 guard from Siena, have experience that Ewing believes can be helpful.

Among the returners, only three — sophomore Qudus Webb and seniors Jahvon Blair and Jamorko Pickett — saw significant playing time last year.

“It definitely is a restart,” Ewing said.

This will be Ewing’s fourth season at the helm. He has yet to lead the Hoyas to an NCAA tournament appearance, though Georgetown made the NIT his second year. This year’s preseason coaches poll is the lowest Georgetown has ranked in his tenure.

For this year’s poll, coaches pegged Villanova to finish first with nine first-place votes. Following the Wildcats are Creighton, Providence, UConn, Seton Hall, Marquette, Xavier, Butler, St. John’s, DePaul and then Georgetown. With UConn’s return, 2020 will be the first season that the Big East has more than 10 teams since the conference split off from the football-playing schools in 2012.

Georgetown has surpassed the preseason poll expectations in two of Ewing’s three years. In Ewing’s first season, the Hoyas were voted to finish ninth but ended up with the eighth-best record in the conference. They also placed sixth in the conference in 2019-19 after a seventh-place finish was predicted. Last year, coaches voted Georgetown to finish sixth only for the program to slide to eighth following a tumultuous season.

Ewing, meanwhile, is still getting to know his group. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Georgetown wasn’t able to hold workouts over the summer like in normal circumstances. Georgetown begins conference play Dec. 11 against Villanova. The school has yet to announce a non-conference schedule.

“I still believe that we have a good group of guys here,” Ewing said. “They have us picked last, but we’ll see what happens. We just have to continue to work and learn each other. … I’m going to need our guys coming back to be up for the challenge and the new guys to also do what they do well.”

Big East honors John Thompson Jr.

The Big East Conference is honoring the late John Thompson Jr. with an award in his name. The award, modeled after Thompson’s advocacy as a mentor and coach, will be given to an individual, team or athletic department that best stands for social change and fights discrimination. Thompson, the longtime Georgetown coach, died in August.

“It’s a great honor for the Big East to have the award in his name, the things he fought for over the course of his life,” Ewing said.

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