Georgetown shocked the college basketball world last season when the Hoyas won the Big East Tournament as the No. 8 seed.
While the Hoyas must replace their four top scorers from that team, coach Patrick Ewing said Thursday that the lesson to his young squad is the same as it was last year.
“It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” Ewing said.
Ewing was referencing the preseason coaches poll that had Georgetown 10th out of 11 teams in the conference. Last season, the Hoyas were ranked last in the poll before going 7-9 in conference play and winning four straight to claim the program’s first Big East crown since 2007 and its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2015.
“I kept mentioning that Drake song all last year, ‘Started From the Bottom,’” Ewing said. “… I don’t put a lot of credit on preseason polls. What I care about is where we finish at the end.”
Replicating the team’s tournament success won’t be easy, though.
The Hoyas have to replace Jahvon Blair, Qudus Wahab, Jamorko Pickett and Chudier Bile — the team’s top four scorers from 2020-21. Blair scored 15.4 points and dished out 3.6 assists per game — both team highs — while Wahab (12.7 points, 8.2 rebounds), Pickett (12.2 points, 7.2 rebounds) and Bile (10.2 points) were all double-digit scorers.
Blair is playing professionally in Canada, while Pickett and Bile are both in the NBA’s G-League. Wahab is playing this season for Maryland after transferring in the summer.
While Ewing is optimistic, he admits Hoyas fans will have to be “patient” with the young team that has seven new players and just two returning starters.
“We lost four guys that were instrumental in our success,” Ewing said. “But we still feel like we have enough of a nucleus to compete and do well. We’re going to be playing a lot of young guys. … It’s going to be peaks and valleys. I have to be patient, fans have to be patient.”
The top two Hoyas returning are Donald Carey and Dante Harris. Carey, a senior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, scored 8 points a game last season and was the Hoyas’ top 3-point shooter. Harris, the team’s point guard, averaged 8 points, 3.2 assists and a team-high 1.2 steals per game last season. Harris was also named Most Outstanding Player for his performance in the Big East Tournament.
“They’re going to have big roles,” Ewing said. “How big is going to be predicated on how they’re doing. We’re going to need scoring and defense out of both of them. If both of those guys are solid, then we’ll be solid.”
Joining Carey and Harris is a solid freshman class headlined by five-star recruit Aminu Mohammed, a 6-foot-5 guard from Temple Hills, Maryland, who was voted the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year. The Hoyas also welcome a 7-foot-2 center with a familiar last name in Ryan Mutombo, son of former Georgetown and NBA star center Dikembe Mutombo.
Graduate transfer Kaiden Rice from The Citadel is also expected to make an impact. The guard scored 17.6 points per game for the Bulldogs last season.
“We have a great group of guys who are hungry, ready to learn and ready to be coached,” Harris said. “I feel like we’re all going to be on the same page, and we have a good freshman class coming in, so we should be good.”
Georgetown kicks off its season Saturday against Dartmouth at Capital One Arena, its first home game with fans in the stands since the COVID-ravaged 2019-20 season.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them,” Ewing said. “It feels like it’s been an eternity since we’ve had fans in the building or playing in front of fans.”