A dejected and reflective John Thompson III watched reporters pack up their things and prepare to leave, as the post-game press conference was over. The Hoyas were just dealt an 81-67 loss to their rivals, the Villanova Wildcats, who had knocked them out of the 2016 Big East Tournament.
With a 15-18 record, Georgetown wasn't in consideration for any postseason tournaments. It was over.
Flanked by 7-foot center Bradley Hayes and Georgetown's leading man, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Thompson kept everyone back in their seats as he made one last address for the season and publicly thanked both players for their time at Georgetown in a requiem of sorts.
In a way, he felt that he let them down, as they--along with their fellow classmate Riyan Williams--endured a disappointing final year as a Hoya. As forgettable of a season it was, he did not want them to be forgotten.
It was the first time, as Georgetown's head coach, that Thompson ever had a losing season. He didn't even have such a stroke of misfortune during his tenure at Princeton. Since coming to Georgetown in 2004, he has led his Hoyas to at least a NCAA Tournament or a NIT appearance, with last year being the only exception.
Thompson has compiled a respectable 264-133 record since becoming the Hoyas' head coach, with the highlight of his career arriving in 2007, when they reached the Final Four. However, that deep NCAA Tournament run feels like eons ago, as the Hoyas haven't gotten past the first weekend of the tournament since. While they earned top-five seeds in each of their last three appearances at the Big Dance, each trip was met with heartbreaking upsets.
It’s no secret that Thompson hasn’t been able to find recent success, or accomplish as close to the legendary resume his father—John Thompson Jr.—built as a long-time head coach for the Hoyas, which has led to some of the Georgetown faithful placing him on the hot seat. As the highest paid coach in the Big East, under his watch, the Hoyas haven’t performed in tune with their strong basketball tradition in recent history.
For this upcoming season, Thompson will try to stop Georgetown’s downward slide. Another losing season would be crushing to Thompson and the program. He will have to do so without Smith-Rivera, who finished his four-year career with 1,919 points—the fifth-highest scoring total in Hoya history, right behind Alonzo Mourning. He will have to do it without DSR, who has certainly been the heart and soul of the team over the last three seasons.
Fortunately for Thompson, he brings back every other major contributor and rotational player from last season.
Instead of giving a senior farewell speech at the team banquet, Hayes was given a fifth year of eligibility from the NCAA. He applied for a hardship waiver based on his freshman season, in which he played only 15 minutes and his father passed away.
L.J. Peak and Isaac Copeland were the two other players, besides Smith-Rivera, who averaged more than 10 points per game last season. Peak emerged as an all-around scoring threat, after being a much-improved perimeter shooter as well as a slasher. He’s also one of Georgetown’s top defenders, with his ability to guard almost any position on the floor. As for Copeland, he proved to be a complementary scorer and a solid rebounder in his first season as a full-time starter. His numbers plateaued after a great freshman season, so he’s looking to take a big leap this season.
Sophomores Jessie Govan and Marcus Derrickson are back, after playing major minutes as freshmen in the front court last season. Govan, a projected late-first, second round NBA Draft pick, showed promise as a first-year player. His numbers don’t blow up the stat sheet, but he has the tools and the potential to be one of the most dominant big men on both ends of the court in the Big East. Derrickson could play either forward position and takes a bulk of his shots from beyond the arc. He was second to Peak in 3-point percentage, knocking down 37.6 percent of his long range shots.
Reggie Cameron is the lone true senior on this roster and should be a quality contributor off the bench. Tre Campbell got a few appearances in the starting lineup, but ultimately may not have the scoring touch to see an increase in minutes. He was a solid ball-handler when he was on the floor, though. Graduate transfer Rodney Pryor (Robert Morris) is expected to contribute right away, how big of a role he will play in the Georgetown rotation remains to be seen. Freshman combo guard Jagan Mosely (Morganville, N.J./St. Anthony’s) adds some much-needed backcourt depth.
Thompson certainly has the pieces to be better than last year’s 15-18 finish. He needs to put the pieces together into being a solid basketball team in the Big East. This is an important year for Thompson and Georgetown. Will they continue to fall, or will they take the first step in climbing out of the hole?