Eight years into his Georgetown tenure, John Thompson III has found himself with a workable, clean slate just like the one he had when he started.
At the beginning of the season, Thompson said his underclassmen heavy roster reminded him of his first year with the Hoyas, when Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace were all freshman and began on a road that would take them to the Final Four three years later.
With five games left in the current regular season, Thompson sees similar potential with this year's Hoyas (19-5, 9-4 Big East), who face Providence (13-14, 2-12) on Saturday. Still, he's cautious about drawing any conclusions with so much work remaining for them to finish in the top four in the Big East and claim a crucial double bye to begin the postseason.
"Is it like that group [in 2004-05]?" Thompson said. "In many ways it's similar. Now you have to wait and see how the outcome comes, the full body of work, before you start comparing and contrasting. But just the way the pieces are, they're similar."
|No. 10 Georgetown|
|When » Saturday, 7 p.m.|
|Dunkin' Donuts Center,|
|TV » MASN|
The progress they have made already is striking -- and not because of a quick adaptation to the nuances of Thompson's offense, even if they are second in the Big East in shooting percentage (.464). It is a defense that is second in the Big East in points allowed (58.9 per game), fourth in defensive field goal percentage (.389) and third in rebounding margin (plus-5.5) that puts the Hoyas coach more at ease than he has been in the past. His players have noticed.
"I definitely see that this year," senior center Henry Sims said, "especially since we have a lot of guys that buy into his philosophies of playing hard and preaching defense first. We all feel the same way. Since I've been here, this has been one of the times that he's been convinced that everybody is really ready to step in and really ready to play."
The unselfish mentality has bled into the offense, a silver lining to the departure of guards Chris Wright and Austin Freeman. After South Florida's recent loss to the Hoyas, Bulls coach Stan Heath said, "They were more talented last year. They're a much better team this year."
Sophomore forward Nate Lubick agrees.
"I think one thing that's different about this team," Lubick said, "and not to criticize last year's team, is that when people break off of the offense this year, it's to get somebody else a shot, rather than last year, if someone was breaking out of our offensive sets, it was kind of to get their own shot. As a coach, that's all you can ask for. I think you can just see that he's having more fun."
How much fun? When asked whether he was pleasantly surprised how far the Hoyas have come so fast, Thompson replied, "It was necessary, and so I'm glad they've come through and have done what's required of them to get books, board and tuition."