When it was officially announced on January 12th that Greg Whittington had been ruled academically ineligible, the initial diagnosis was not too encouraging for the Georgetown Hoyas.
Currently sitting with a 8-1 record without Whittington, headlined by home wins over Louisville and Marquette, the loss of the Sophomore forward is looking more and more like a blessing in disguise for Georgetown.
Yet it really doesn’t add up. After all Georgetown was an inept offensive team with Wittington, the team’s third leading scorer at 12.1 points per game. They had failed to reach fifty points four times this season with Whittington, and had gotten off tough a rough start in Big East Play with losses to Marquette and Pittsburgh.
The suspension should have broken a team that was flirting with disaster. It didn’t, in fact Georgetown appears to be playing their best ball of the season.
Give all the honor and praise to head coach John Thompson III, whose adjustments since a near thirty point home loss to Pittsburgh have drastically altered a once stagnant offense.
Mikael Hopkins has seen both his playing time, 21.2 mpg with Whittington to 20.7 mpg without Whittington, and role as the key decision maker in the high post decrease. In turn, John Thompson III has put his faith in junior Nate Lubick to take on a larger role in the offense, and he has been rewarded thus far. The Junior forward has averaged 8.5 points per game and 2.9 assists in Georgetown’s last nine games.
Lubick is not only a more experienced player within Georgetown’s offense than Hopkins, he is also a much more gifted passer.
“ He’s been playing at a very high level for a long time now, to tell you the truth,” said John Thompson III after Georgetown defeated St. John’s 68-56 on February 2nd. “ I said a couple of games ago, he wasn’t up here, but I said Nate gave us quality starts, not quality starts. When we need something done, he gets a rebound, makes an assist, gets a basket. He’s been doing that consistently and tonight was no exception.”
Lubick’s presence in the high post has not only resulted in better ball movement for the Hoyas, but a more efficient offense.
The same could be said for the increased playing time of guards D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick. The duo have been the main beneficiaries in Whittington’s absence, and have added a new dimension to Georgetown’s half court offense.
“ We’re making the extra pass,” said John Thompson III after a January 16th victory over the Providence Friars. “ We’re setting pretty good screens. We’re cutting hard, which is then opening up our teammates. I think the guys are doing a good job of searching for shots for their teammates for themselves.”
The presence of Smith Rivera and Trawick on the court have given Georgetown a new-found ability to beat their opponents off the dribble in their half court sets. As a result, the Hoyas ball movement has quickened thanks to the added passing skills Trawick and Smith-Rivera bring to the table.
It must be noted that Whittington was being forced to play out of position as a two guard in Georgetown’s offensive system. Whittington has the make up and skill set of your classic college hybrid, one that can play the three or the four . He lacks the ability to beat his man off the dribble, and consistently knock down open three-point looks. He’s been at his best this season in the open court in transition and attacking overmatched guards in the post.
When your offense features a two guard who struggles to beat the opposition with the dribble, you are going to be somewhat limited on that end of the floor. Evidently Georgetown was, averaging just 63.5 points with Whittington against a relatively easy schedule.
But that was the past and this is the present.
With Smith-Rivera and Trawick handling the two guard duties, those issues are behind Georgetown. The Hoyas now sport a more natural starting lineup, one capable of beating you inside or out, off the dribble or with the shot.
One staple in that starting lineup, Sophomore forward Otto Porter, has been the main cog in Georgetown’s turnaround. Porter, who was a major contributor as a freshman, was expected to be a star for Georgetown this season. For the most part he was, just not the type we were expecting.
See through the first thirteen games of Georgetown’s season with Greg Whittington, Porter was producing adequate numbers on an outstanding shooting percentage. He was averaging 12.8 points per game and shooting 48.7% from the floor. But he found it too easy to disappear within Georgetown’s complex offensive system.
Whittington’s absence forced Porter to become a more aggressive player within Georgetown’s offense. And he has. In the nine games Georgetown has played without Whittington, Porter has averaged 18.6 points per game while shooting 52.3% from the floor. He has also attempted nearly two more shots per game without Whittington.
Porter’s emergence as a legitimate number one offensive option has helped Georgetown immensely in late clock situations. The Hoyas have made it a mission to get the ball into Porter’s hands when it gets late into the shot clock.
“ He’s one of the best players in the country,” said John Thompson III after Georgetown’s victory over Marquette on February 11th. “ I mean he’s consistently shown that. He’s someone who takes pride in and excels in every aspect of the game. He’s not just thinking about “my touches” or “my shots” and all of it is under the umbrella of how to put us in the position to win.”
The Hoyas have certainly been put into position to win their fair share of games as of late. Georgetown has raced from unranked and unnoticed to a top twenty ranking and a share of first place in the Big East. All it took was a Greg Whittington suspension. Who would have thought the loss of their third leading scorer would have saved Georgetown’s season?