When head coach Craig Esherick speaks of the players that will make up the offensive core of the 2003-04 Georgetown men’s basketball team, he includes someone who has never been a regular starter in four previous years as a Hoya: Courtland Freeman.

Fifth-year senior Freeman has extensive experience as a leader and motivational role player, but Esherick believes this could be the year he finally makes an impact on the court.

“This year is Courtland’s chance, and Courtland deserves it based on how hard he’s worked,” Esherick said.

The 6-foot-9 forward has spent much of his time battling unlucky injuries of all types. From his index finger to his back to his foot, Freeman missed so much time that he was awarded another year of eligibility.

“He’s hurt every part of his body in one way, shape or form, and he’s done things like that while dressing, while walking back and forth in practice,” Ehserick said. “We haven’t sent him to a voodoo [doctor] or a palm reader yet, but we’re getting close to that.”

But even when Freeman has been healthy, he has been in the challenging position of playing behind extremely talented big men. Jameel Watkins, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Mike Sweetney and Wesley Wilson, who are each playing some level of professional basketball currently, all made it difficult for Freeman to get significant playing time when he was not sidelined with injury.

But there are hidden blessings in Freeman’s experience. He has spent significant time working hard in practice with quality players, as well as honing his leadership skills in three years as a captain. And, he believes being injured has strengthened his character.

“I think it’s helped me become a better person,” Freeman said. “Through all the injuries, a lot of good things did come from it. I matured a lot as a man, and it made me look at life differently . I know that there’s life other than basketball.”

Freeman came to Georgetown after excelling at Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and played in every game his freshman year despite fighting nagging injuries. That year, his roommate on the road was then-senior and captain Rhese Gibson, who Freeman says had an enormous impact on him.

“[Gibson] was real important to me as a freshman,” Freeman said. “He was my roommate on the road and he just seemed very wise and I’m sort of like in the position that he was in.”

But sophomore year, Freeman was more seriously injured, hurting his back and his foot, and played in only six games during a season that saw the Hoyas go to the Sweet Sixteen, led by Kevin Braswell and freshman Mike Sweetney.

Freeman had to find a way to deal with the disappointment of not being able to contribute to a successful team.

“[I realized] that a lot of people would love to have the opportunity to go to Georgetown and play on the Georgetown men’s basketball team,” Freeman said. “I had to look at it and realize that I am still very blessed and very fortunate.”

Freeman was elected captain as a junior and had another injury-filled year, but averaged about 17 minutes per game.

As a senior, in his second year as captain, Freeman did get more playing time after Wesley Wilson left the team for personal reasons. But he was still playing with Mike Sweetney at the peak of Sweetney’s game, and so scoring opportunities were hard to come by. He averaged 2.4 points per game.

Coupled with his persistent injuries, Freeman’s lack of playing time and box-score success was undoubtedly disappointing. Yet Esherick sees that disappointment as another character-building experience for Freeman.

“Part of the beauty of college is being able to deal with disappointment,” Esherick said.

In addition, Freeman has certainly been prepared to compete for whatever he may do in the future, and Esherick says he has discussed with Freeman why that is vital to his education as a basketball player and a person.

“If you eliminate competition,” Esherick explains, “then you’re doing that kid a disservice because he’s going to have to be able to compete when he gets out of college.”

Whatever Courtland does next year, he’s going to have to compete. If he goes to Europe, the NBA, for a job, he’s going to have to compete.”

Freeman says he is interested in coaching and hopes to start looking for coaching jobs after the season is over.

This year, Freeman will be the starting center on a team that will feature a new look without Sweetney’s inside presence. The Hoyas will be relying on their guards to run a more fast-paced offense.

“He’s clearly our best big man,” Esherick said. “Courtland is a much better player than he has shown people, and I think the only reason that he has not shown people how good he is is because of injuries.”

Esherick has identified rebounding as an area of concern for the Hoyas, and Freeman knows he will be looked to to pick up Sweetney’s load.

“This year I’ve got to do a lot more rebounding and playing better defense than I have in the past,” Freeman said.

Of course, one area where Freeman will surely continue to stand out is in the huddle. He can often be heard shouting encouragement to his teammates as they come out of the locker room before a game, a role he willingly took on as a co-captain with the soft-spoken Sweetney.

“I just like being the hype man and getting everybody ready,” Freeman said.

But with an expanded role on the court, it will be vital to the Hoyas’ success that Freeman stays injury-free.

“I want him to be healthy for a whole year,” Esherick said. “If he’s healthy for a whole year, he’ll have a great year and so will we.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.