Before a season even starts, it’s often easy to look at a team and predict part of the season’s story. For this year’s Georgetown Hoyas there were a lot of unknowns, but the predicted problems with turnovers, depth and, most of all, rebounding have proven accurate. However, while youth was, and can still be, blamed for those first two maladies, Georgetown’s has held a considerable height advantage this season when compared to opponents who are consistently outrebounding the Blue and Gray. The presence of this flaw raises troubling questions about where exactly those rebounds end up.

It’s hard to know where it started, but concerns about size abounded going into the season. Perhaps it was the three-inch drop-off from Roy Hibbert to freshman Greg Monroe at center, or maybe it was the departures of Vernon Macklin and Patrick Ewing Jr. from the bench. It could even have been the horror stories of rebounding giants like Connecticut junior center Hasheem Thabeet or Pitt sophomore forward DeJuan Blair roaming the treacherous conference waters. Whatever the cause, spend any time in the student section or on the talk boards in the past few months, and you’d think the Hoyas were the nation’s most diminutive squad.

Fortunately for Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III, this is far from the truth. While the Hoyas may not have Ewing or Macklin towering over teammates, Georgetown’s four tallest rotation players – averaging at least 10 minutes a game going into the West Virginia matchup – consisting of Monroe, junior forward DaJuan Summers, freshman center Henry Sims and sophomore guard Austin Freeman, have plenty of size to go around.

Since Big East play began seven games ago, the Hoyas’ four tallest rotation players compared to their opponents – counting the three tallest starters and the most used bench big-man – were taller than every team but one. While Notre Dame’s towering forwards average 6-foot-8.5, barely besting the Hoyas’ 6-foot-8.25, the Pittsburg Panthers’ big men, who killed the Hoyas with a 26 board differential, are, on average, almost two inches shorter than the Hoyas. Nationally, Georgetown is just as impressive in the height department. Ken Pomeroy’s “effective height” statistic, which measures the height of rotation players, has ranked Georgetown 14th in the nation.

While the size concerns were unfounded, the rebounding worries were certainly not. In those seven games since conference play began, the Hoyas have been out-rebounded by 8.5 in losses and 5.5 overall. Georgetown is a lowly 14th in the conference in rebounding margin going into last night’s game against West Virginia and last in overall rebounding. If size is not an issue, why are Georgetown’s big men blowing it on the boards?

If one wanted to start pointing fingers, at 6-foot-8, and as the team’s second starting big man, Summers’ 4.2 rebounds per game on the season starts seems like a first target. In fact, if you compare the production of the second tallest big man on Georgetown’s past six opponents (in terms of height), DaJuan’s counterparts, headlined by Blair and junior forward Luke Harangody of Notre Dame, have averaged eight rebounds a game to DaJuan’s 4.2.

As tall as Harangody and taller than Blair, height cannot be the problem for Summers, but it’s hard to really get upset with Summers over his struggles on the boards. For starters, he has spent most of his career playing alongside Patrick Ewing Jr., Roy Hibbert, and Jeff Green. With those big bodies gone, he has been forced to transition to the role of critical rebounder. On top of that, Summers is also consistently the Hoyas’ main scoring threat, and as a result, he cannot risk the fouls that can often accompany aggressive behavior in the paint.

With so many responsibilities on his plate, it seems unlikely that Summers’ average will improve much, but his increased experience as an important rebounder could prove beneficial when the team needs that clutch board in a big moment. DaJuan may never average more than his Big East rivals, but if he can steal one away when it counts, that might make all the difference.

Summers may struggle, but perhaps the most glaring weakness in the big-man rotation is freshman center Henry Sims. You would be hard pressed to find a 6-foot-10 Big East player averaging nearly 10 minutes a game, who collected fewer rebounds than Sims’ 1.8 a night, but at 220 pounds, the freshman forward only has 5 lbs. on the 6-foot-4 Freeman. Sims clearly has the drive and the height to be a force on the boards, but it may take a season of weight training and meals from Leo’s to get him the strength and mass to fight Harangody for a board.

If Summers has to focus on offense and Sims just needs time, what are the Hoyas to do? All things considered, DaJuan could start to box out better and stay out of foul trouble. Henry could gain some weight and power, and sophomore forward Julian Vaughn could stop looking so scared all the time. Their opponents can’t get taller.

The Hoyas may get out-rebounded for the rest of season, but they have the size to grab them when it really counts and the potential to be a force on the boards with the passage of time. With a team full of underclassmen, I’ll take potential any day of the week.

Jamie Leader is a senior in the College and can be reached at leaderthehoya.com. He hosts the sports radio show “Tournament Edition” on Georgetown Radio every Monday from noon to 2 p.m. FOLLOW THE LEADER appears every other Friday in HOYA SPORTS.

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