Certainly, the recent play has been encouraging, if not downright exciting at times. However, the cold, cruel reminder that there are four freshmen and two sophomores playing major minutes keeps coming back at the most inopportune times…just as it seems things are coming together for the team, or when you see a spectacular play made by an individual. Occasionally, you can explain it away…and other times, it defies description. Kind of like your kids as they grow up, and if you are a parent, you know what I mean!
This was part of the problem at Georgetown. The team was focused, at least they certainly seemed focused prior to game time. And even though they managed to forge a lead at the break by 30-24, they did so without playing particularly well. That's the encouraging part. The painful part followed.
When you can't rebound, you can't run the offense the way you would like to run it…by moving up and down the floor, getting out on the break, and filling the lane. You can't do that without the ball in your hands, and flat out – the Friars just didn't have the ball in their hands enough. The Hoyas blasted PC on the backboards 47-26, and that was the ultimate difference in losing the first Big East game of the season, 72-62. Throw in a poor shooting night, a cold second half start, some missed chances at the free throw line, and it spells defeat in this league – and most others.
The play of the four freshmen – and I have referred to them as the "Fantastic Four" – has proven to be most encouraging, as they seem to have grown up rather quickly. But even as their on-court maturity begins to take shape, there are still going to be games where they appear lost, or out of place. It has happened with Weyinme Efejuku, Jon Kale, Sharaud Curry, and now it has happened to Geoff McDermott. McDermott did win a Big East Rookie of the Week award two weeks ago, but appeared to be every bit the rookie that he is against the Hoyas. Perhaps it was a frontline featuring 7-2 Roy Hibbert, or maybe it was just one of those nights. But Geoff was not the Geoff we had seen lately. And with growing pains, this will happen. You simply cannot teach the intensity that is required on the court at all times for league games…you can see it, feel it and even smell it sometimes. But you can't teach it. It is an acquired trait that takes time…even for someone as skilled as McDermott.
Overall defensive intensity was better, offensive sets were only average at best, and the effort on the boards was poor. Georgetown was ok defensively, but we've seen them better. The Friars had chances in this one, but could never convert. The good news is that after the game was over at the MCI Center, no one said much. In fact, no one said a thing on the bus ride to Dulles International, where a chartered plane took the team home Thursday night. And no one said much of anything on the flight home, either. No one had to. The best part of being around these guys, is that you can see there are some things they understand. One, they don't like losing. Two, they're like sponges, trying to soak up whatever knowledge they can from the coaches, and from each other. And three, they will bounce back…kids always do.
The trip into Washington was uneventful, as the team took a commercial flight on Wednesday evening after practice. Dinner and football (watching the Rose Bowl – Hook ‘em Horns, by the way!) followed…and most of the time spent prior to tip off Thursday night was at the team hotel. It was a business trip, and that's a character trait these players seem to have picked up on. Business simply didn't turn out the way they would have liked it to.
But sometime soon, it will…provided the growing pains subside.
On The Road With John Rooke: Georgetown
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