McALEER: Winning Locally Remains Key for Men’s Basketball To Return to National Stage
4th and Long

With the NBA draft less than two weeks away, many believe that the number one overall pick will be sophomore guard Markelle Fultz, who played one season with the University of Washington after graduating from Maryland basketball powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School.

NBA executives and fans alike have gushed about his potential. With his exceptional combination of length, athleticism and playmaking ability, Fultz has displayed a skillset that should translate smoothly to the professional league. Fultz also serves as the latest top NBA prospect with roots in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, a region historically rich with top high school basketball talent, boasting NBA stars such as Kevin Durant and Grant Hill. Despite growing up in Georgetown’s backyard, Fultz left for the west coast to play for Washington, spending his lone season with the Huskies dazzling on the court while the team struggled with a losing season.

Although Fultz was a late arrival to the national recruiting scene, shockingly not making DeMatha’s varsity team until his junior year, Hoya fans are frustrated nonetheless that he did not consider Georgetown as a top choice. Of course, given the highly competitive nature of recruiting, landing a blue chip prospect is immensely difficult for any program, even if they are a local talent. However, missing out on Fultz, as well as other top local players, has been an ominous trend for Georgetown, one that has coincided with an overall decline in securing top recruits over the past few years.

Most notably in recent years, Villanova landed Josh Hart from Sidwell Friends School and Kris Jenkins from Gonzaga College High School. Both ended up playing vital roles in revitalizing Villanova as a perennial contender and mainstay in the top-10 rankings. Hart and Jenkins were key contributors in the 2016 national championship for the Wildcats, with Hart having an All-American season and Jenkins hitting the game-winning shot against North Carolina in the championship. The four years Hart and Jenkins spent at Villanova coincided with Georgetown’s worst four year runs in program history. While it is impossible to predict how much of a factor high school players will be once in college, the emergence of Hart and Jenkins at Villanova highlights the devastating effects of missing out on local recruits for programs like Georgetown.

When Georgetown thrived under coach John Thompson III, it held its own recruiting locally, using its location and tradition to charm recruits. Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert, stars of Georgetown’s last Final Four team in 2007, were local products themselves. Star players that followed, such as Dajuan Summers, Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark, also had DMV roots. But, as the Hoyas experienced continued disappointment last March, the local DMV pipeline gradually diminished as many regional players went elsewhere in the hopes of gaining more postseason exposure.

With new Head Coach Patrick Ewing at the helm, a sense of excitement has surrounded the Georgetown basketball program. Hoya fans are hopeful that Ewing’s cache as a highly respected NBA assistant coach and one of the greatest NBA and college players of all time can revive local interest in the program. Georgetown has the resources and location to be an attractive option for top area players. Establishing a renewed commitment to heavily recruiting in the DMV will be key in turning around the program. If Ewing can restore a recruiting pipeline in the DMV, Georgetown’s chances of returning to the national stage will undoubtedly increase.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>