It was a rare sight to see Greg Whittington and Josh Smith dressed like their teammates in public.
For most of the second half of the season, dress shirts and suits were the attire for the academically suspended Whittington and newly transferred Smith. Not eligible to play, each home game they were dutifully at the end of the Georgetown bench, cheering on the Hoyas, questioning calls and supporting their teammates every step of the way toward a Big East regular season title.
But when the Hoyas entered Leo O'Donovan dining hall Sunday evening to watch the NCAA tournament selection show, Whittington and Smith were wearing the same warm-up suits and were introduced just like the rest of the players. Having gone against them every single day in practice as part of the scout squad, or "white team," Whittington and Smith found it a small consolation to share in the No. 2 seed that was a reward for what the Hoyas have done so far.
"Hopefully, having Josh and Greg is making our white team better, which is making everyone else better," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said earlier in the season.
|No. 2 Georgetown vs. No. 15 Fla. Gulf Coast|
|When »||Friday, 6:50 p.m.|
|Where »||Wells Fargo Center,||Philadelphia|
But to him it's never been the case that Georgetown has been better off without Whittington, that somehow the team's third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder's ineligibility was a silver lining enabling the Hoyas (25-6) to reach previously unattainable heights. While Otto Porter Jr. could leave for the NBA, the Hoyas are the only team in the NCAA tournament without any seniors.
"I think this team would have progressed anyway," Thompson said at the Big East tournament last week. "I think we have just gotten better every week. I think that would have happened whether Greg's here or not. Like I said many times, you look at what we've done since he got hurt, and we're a better team with Greg Whittington on the court as opposed to being without him."
That said, the long-armed 6-foot-8 sophomore forward's ability to transform into the opposition's most dangerous scorer or defender has been an undeniable asset inside McDonough Gymnasium.
"He shouldn't be on the scout team," junior forward Nate Lubick said earlier in the year, a simple explanation for Whittington's impact.
Boxing out the 6-10, 305-pound Smith, who left UCLA six games into his junior season, also has toughened Lubick and sophomore forward Mikael Hopkins.
"He's a big guy," Hopkins said. "He's physical. He shows me that I'm going to have to work. He prepares me for the next week. Most of the time, Josh is bigger than the guys that I'll be playing against next week so I'm battling with him each and every day is getting me prepared for that."
Hopkins said Smith has had no trouble fitting in.
"He's a real positive guy," Hopkins said. "He's always smiling. Coach tells him not to smile so much. He's a real good guy. I can't wait to get him on the court."