CHRIS BIEN/THE HOYA
CHRIS BIEN/THE HOYA
Making the transition from a highly touted rookie to a sophomore contributor is no easy task. When you have to fill in for an NBA lottery pick and an injured leading scorer, it’s even harder.

For a Georgetown squad without Otto Porter and Greg Whittington, there’s a lot riding on the shoulders of sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.

Smith-Rivera, often known by his initials, DSR, arrived at Georgetown as a promising Oak Hill Academy product. After a successful summer at the Kenner League, he lived up to the hype from the get-go. He proved one of the Hoyas’ best shooters from beyond the arc, and his ballhandling skills helped take pressure off then-junior point guard Markel Starts.

Though Head Coach John Thompson III tends to ease freshmen into the rotation, Smith-Rivera made an immediate impact last season.

In the home opener against Duquesne, he was called upon to play 32 minutes when sophomore forward Otto Porter sat out with a concussion. The Indianapolis native showed off his sharpshooting skills, going 4-for-4 from beyond the arc and leading the team with 19 points.

Thompson, typically cryptic and understated in his post-game press conferences, practically raved about DSR’s abilities after the Duquesne game.

“He can shoot, and he can score, and he’s a very good passer,” Thompson said.

Smith-Rivera saw less playing time as Porter recovered, although he continued to turn in solid efforts in non-conference play, including an 11-point performance against Liberty.

When sophomore forward Greg Whittington was suspended for academic reasons for the second half of the season, though, Smith-Rivera got another chance to shine. He took full advantage.

DSR scored in double figures in nine Big East games, including dumping an astonishing 33 points — including five treys — on a hapless DePaul squad.

As Smith-Rivera became a bona fide threat from beyond the arc, his presence made other defenses slide to the perimeter, creating more space in the paint. Smith-Rivera also showed an impressive ability to muscle his way to the basket on the inside, making him a versatile threat all over the court.

In recognition of his well-rounded game, and thanks to his 15 points and five rebounds in Georgetown’s signature win over Syracuse, Smith-Rivera was named to the Big East all-rookie team.

The honor put the 6-foot-3, 218-pound guard in the same company as a host of Blue and Gray stars who became mainstays of the NBA, including Greg Monroe and Jeff Green.

Whether Smith-Rivera can live up to those lofty expectations will help define Georgetown’s chances of winning the Big East this season. It’s something that his teammates have already realized.

“Without [Whittington], obviously myself and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera will have to step up,” senior guard Markel Starks said.

Already a prolific rebounder for his 6-foot-3 frame, Smith-Rivera is preparing to focus on how he can rebound to create shots and set up his teammates to score.

“Last year, I rebounded the ball pretty well,” Smith-Rivera said. “This year, I’m focused on doing that and being better as an all-around athlete.”

To realize this goal, DSR spent much of the offseason in the gym working out and improving his stamina. He dropped 10 pounds and looks leaner and meaner than last season. With a full year of experience under his belt, he is more confident and self-assured.

“We have a lot of shooters this year,” Smith-Rivera said. “If we’re able to defend, we’ll win a lot of games.”

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