Over the last 20 years, Georgetown basketball has been defined by its man in the middle. Centers have been known for redirecting shots on defense and being the No. 1 option on offense. The paint has been dominated by the likes of Ewing, Mourning, Mutombo, Boumtje-Boumtje and Sweetney, among others. These big men have established a reputation for Hoya basketball.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, former head coach John Thompson signed the nation’s top post players. His first superstar recruit was Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85). Ewing made an immediate impact on the program – some consider him to be the best college basketball player ever. The 7-footer made headlines early in his freshman year and continued throughout his four-year career. He ended his career at Georgetown as one of the most accomplished collegiate athletes ever. He was a three-time All American, National Player of the Year and Gold medal winner.

Thompson used Ewing primarily to play great defense. Although Ewing could score, his greatest contributions came in the backcourt. He recorded 499 blocked shots in his career, which still ranks him first in Georgetown history. After three final four appearances and a national championship, Ewing was the first Hoya to be selected No. 1 in the NBA Draft.

After Ewing, Alonzo Mourning (COL ’92) and Dikembe Mutombo (SLL ’91) took over the team. With the help of senior Charles Smith (CAS ’89), the imposing front line led Georgetown to the Elite Eight. Mutombo, a relative unknown before Georgetown, became an extremely skilled shot blocker and Mourning was the classic center with great post moves on offense and defensive skill in the paint. But with Smith’s graduation, the duo could not lead the Hoyas past the second round – three years in a row. With Mourning’s departure in 1992, Thompson signed another all-star big man in Othella Harrington (COL ’96). Harrington led the team to the NCAA tournament but lost – again in the second round.

Allen Iverson and junior college standout Jerome Williams came along to help out Harrington. In Iverson’s freshman year, the team broke the postseason curse and made it to the Sweet 16. The next year, the trio led the team to a No. 4 ranking and an Elite Eight finish as the Hoyas fell to Marcus Camby and assachusetts.

Iverson did not stick around to see if Georgetown could top its 1995 results, opting to enter the NBA Draft and becoming the first Thompson player not to graduate. He did, however, manage to join Ewing in the elite class of Hoyas selected with the No. 1 pick.

With Iverson gone, it was Victor Page who led the Georgetown squad to an NCAA appearance. But after a sensational sophomore season in which he averaged 22.7 points per game, Page thought he was the next Iverson and left early for the NBA. Scouts did not think as much of Page as he thought of himself, and draft day came and went without his being selected.

In 1998, the Hoyas failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in four seasons. And in January 1999, the Thompson era came to a close, leaving former assistant Craig Esherick to take over the Hoya sidelines. Esherick coached some incredible talent down low. Ruben Boutmtje-Boumtje (COL ’01) dominated the paint for a year and a half under Esherick, and after he left Esherick-recruit Michael Sweetney dominated Georgetown’s play. Sweetney scored at least 15 points in 85 percent of the games he played.

Georgetown basketball has clearly centered around the big man from Ewing to Sweetney. But times have changed. The coaching staff talks about a new style of play. Esherick says the Hoyas will run the ball more, press on defense and rely on their perimeter game. Head coach Craig Esherick fields a team full of talented point guards and athletic swingmen with little experience on the blocks. Senior Courtland Freeman is the one player with experience down low. Freeman, senior Gerald Riley and sophomore Brandon Bowman will lead this year’s squad with a new up-tempo, perimeter-oriented offense.

Esherick spoke of the new style: “No question about it. We are going to be more up-tempo on both ends, offensively and defensively. We’ll be picking up our defense full court and shooting more threes. We have eight guys that hit the three so when you have that many you have to shoot them.”

This year’s team looks to be very athletic and Esherick has a plethora of players with a good outside shot. There are three solid point guards in Ashanti Cook, Matt Causey and Ray Reed who will quarterback the team. The top three swingmen will all start. Bowman, Riley, and Darrell Owens will be vital in getting to the basket on offense, playing good defense on the full court press and half court game. The inside game, led by Freeman, will need to contribute on the glass and play great interior defense in the Big East. The new style of play Esherick talks about should be a good fit for this athletic squad.

Most opposing coaches thought Georgetown’s offense – based entirely around Sweetney – was too predictable. Now, as the Hoyas switch to a quick offense focused on fast breaks and strong perimeter play, the teams will have to be ready for a new variety of Georgetown basketball.

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