1999-2000 Season: A Wild Ride for Georgetown

By Sean P. Flynn Hoya Staff Writer

If you were telling the story of the 1999-2000 Georgetown men’s basketball team on March 5, it would have been one of disappointment, underachievement and mediocrity. Tell the story now, only three weeks later, and you’ve got one of achievement and hope for a bright future.

It was indeed a roller coaster season for the 19-15 Hoyas, a ride that one day could take a Georgetown fan to the floor of MCI Center celebrating a spectacular victory and just a few days later take that fan to the depths after a demoralizing loss.

A big part of the Hoyas’ season, though, was circumstance. Expectations were placed undeservedly high going into the season for the Hoyas, who were 15-16 in 1998-1999, and that played a major part in the disappointment of this season. Sports Illustrated ranked Georgetown 19th in the country, and the New York Post had the Hoyas in the top 10; The Hoya ranked Georgetown 25th.

Meanwhile, Georgetown’s armor had more than its fair share of chinks. Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, a redshirt sophomore center, sat out almost all preseason practice with a foot injury, while freshman forward Courtland Freeman suffered from a less serious but similar problem. Highly touted recruit Wesley Wilson was academically ineligible and was forced to sit out the year. Junior-college transfer Lee Scruggs did not graduate on time from his two-year school, and did not join the team until after Christmas.

The Hoyas played an uncharacteristically strong non-conference schedule this year, highlighted by a trip to the Maui Invitational over Thanksgiving week and a stop at Nevada-Las Vegas on the way home. After beating Memphis in the first round, Georgetown, with Boumtje-Boumtje getting minimal minutes, played well against eventual Final Four teams North Carolina and Florida, but both were as losses.

At UNLV, Georgetown struggled worse in a loss, shooting 36.7 percent at the free-throw line in a 16-point loss. When the dust had settled, Georgetown came out of the tough part of their schedule with no wins and a disheartening loss.

After a six-game winning streak in the easy part of the schedule, Georgetown entered its Big East season unprepared and got deflated by a terrible 55-48 loss to Providence. Georgetown shot 30 percent and made one shot in the final 16 minutes of the first half, getting embarrassed by one of the Big East’s worst teams. Georgetown squandered an overtime lead and lost to Seton Hall at home, then battled with St. John’s at Madison Square Garden but lost by nine points and was 0-3 to start conference play. The Hoyas bounced back, though, beating eventual Sweet 16 team Miami at home and topping last-place Boston College on a buzzer-beater by sophomore point guard Kevin Braswell.

Win-a-few, lose-a-few was the pattern for the season, as the Hoyas could never get a consistent run going. For every Louisville game – in which the Georgetown student section rushed the floor – there was a West Virginia, where Georgetown wasted a five-point lead with two minutes left. The Big East season ended as discouragingly as it started, with a 23-point home loss to Notre Dame March 4.

Then, at the Big East Tournament, the Hoyas made a turnaround that put them back on the national map. After beating West Virginia on a last-second shot by Braswell, Georgetown shocked the East Coast with a 76-72 win over Syracuse in the second round. Well-planned and well-executed, the win changed Georgetown from a possible NIT team to an NIT shoo-in and a bubble team for the NCAAs.

After Connecticut ousted Georgetown from the league tourney, Georgetown went on the road in the NIT to Virginia, a team considered by some to be the best team not in the NCAAs. At Virginia, Georgetown overcame a 15-point deficit and then engaged Virginia in a triple-overtime epic. At the end of a game considered one of the best postseason games in history, Georgetown mustered all it could for an amazing, 115-111 win. But, fittingly, bad shooting would end the Hoyas’ season, as they shot 27.7 percent in a 60-49 loss to Cal in the NIT second round.

Now that the madness has ended, the Hoyas’ season can come under a complete light. Individually, most indicative of the season was the rise of Braswell and the struggles of junior guard Anthony Perry. Braswell established himself as one of the league’s top point guards by being the Hoyas’ top shooter, dribbler and passer. His performance in the postseason put him in the national spotlight. Against Syracuse and Virginia, Braswell’s brilliant play was the key to Georgetown’s victories.

At the same time, Perry’s demise continued to befuddle the coaching staff and observers from around the region, especially those who saw him when he was a McDonald’s All-American in high school. By the end of the season, Perry and his 33-percent shooting clip were benched, and his confidence on the floor had fallen. The player ranked higher than Elton Brand and Tracy McGrady coming out of high school was a role player.

The two main Hoya big men were the other contrasting story of the season, with Scruggs’ offensive prowess carrying the Hoyas on one end and Boumtje-Boumtje’s defense important to Georgetown’s success but whose offense was often a thorn in Georgetown’s side. Scruggs did not show up until Dec. 26 and did not see significant playing time until mid-January, when he scored 16 against Miami and became a fan favorite.

The missed early season hampered Scruggs, who was out of shape early in the year and never got into a groove on defense. But on offense, the lanky 6-foot-11 Scruggs wowed the Big East with both his frame and his shooting ability. In the Hoyas’ 70-55 loss to Connecticut in the Big East Tournament, Scruggs earned an all-tournament team selection with a nearly unstoppable fadeaway jumper.

Boumtje-Boumtje never got into much of a groove after missing early-season practices with the foot injury. He had some breakout offensive performances (27 at Pittsburgh in February), but more common was poor ball-handling skills and missed shots. Another foot injury hampered the end of his season, and his absence showed what he meant on defense to the Hoyas, who needed his size and strength to control the middle.

Georgetown’s inability to find another answer on offense besides Scruggs and Braswell was its downfall. Freshman Demetrius Hunter had his moments from the outside, but he ended the season with a 32.9 shooting percentage. Perry and junior swingman Nat Burton never provided much consistency from the outside, and freshman forwards Courtland Freeman and Victor Samnick ended up playing only minor roles for the team. Too often, strong defensive performances were countered by such horrible offensive games that Georgetown couldn’t win.

Those losses were the most memorable of the season until March. Two big March wins later, though, Georgetown was once again labeled as a future contender. So, can the last chapter change the meaning of the rest of the story?

The Hoyas were underachievers this year, and their offense was too inconsistent to make the Hoyas a national contender. Georgetown’s inability to find a third source of offense besides Scruggs and Braswell crippled the offense in losses like the UConn and Cal games.

But obviously, with the evidence provided, Georgetown should improve next year. Braswell became a star and has two years left, and Scruggs will have a full season to work with. If Boumtje-Boumtje can heal during the off season, he could become more of a factor during next season. The Hoyas have another highly regarded freshman class waiting in the wings, and Wilson will be eligible.

And if the late-season success says anything, Georgetown can once again be a contender in the Big East and in the nation.

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