After a season-ending ACL tear, and stultified offense that resulted, all but ended dreams of a Final Four run, fifth-year point guard Maurice Watson, Jr., is set to leave Creighton empty-handed. A team that radiated promise one week ago has now lost two in a row, leaving its future mired in uncertainty.
The No. 16 Blue Jays (18-3, 5-3 Big East) fell Wednesday night, 71-51, to a Georgetown team with a similarly uncertain future.
While the Hoyas (11-10, 2-6 Big East) have just three players graduating after this season — graduate students guard Rodney Pryor and center and captain Bradley Hayes and senior forward Reggie Cameron — the team may also lose second-leading scorer L.J. Peak if he decides to test the professional waters following the end of the season.
Peak ranks No. 11 in the DraftExpress top juniors and is No. 76 overall on the site’s Top 100 Prospects. While Peak’s NBA future is also uncertain, a long professional career overseas is almost guaranteed, especially given the success of past Hoya guards in Europe — namely Markel Starks (COL ’14) and Jason Clark (COL ’12).
The junior guard’s play this season, a two-way threat of consistent man-to-man defense and inside-out offense, is an improvement from his past two years — a combination of the natural gifts and work ethic that brought him to the Hilltop as ESPN’s No. 31 best high-school recruit in the Class of 2014.
However, if Peak leaves, the team would be markedly depleted. In the Hoyas’ win against the Blue Jays, Pryor — the team’s leading scorer this season — and Peak combined for 38 points. Hayes provided defense and rim protection down low, a skillset that sophomore center Jessie Govan has yet to develop.
Govan, in the wake of Hayes’ graduation, would enter the 2017-18 season as the team’s only center with starting experience. Moreover, the hypothetical departure of Peak would leave Govan with sophomore forward Marcus Derrickson and freshman guard Jagan Mosely as the team’s leaders.
With Tremont Waters, ESPN’s No. 32 best high school recruit in the Class of 2017, set to arrive next year alongside three-star recruit Antwan Walker, developments from Govan, Derrickson and Mosely are critical for Georgetown’s long-term future.
Govan finished Wednesday’s win with 15 points and seven rebounds, including some key finishes off Princeton offense cuts. However, Govan has been inconsistent in both scoring and defense this season. In addition, Govan’s turnover problems — he recorded four in his last outing — have yet to remedy themselves.
While Georgetown has waded through inconsistent play from every other scorer this year, Derrickson has excelled in 2017. In the forward’s last seven games, he has averaged 12 points per game and shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep. Derrickson has also pulled down 4.1 rebounds per game and recorded 2.4 assists per game in that time span.
More striking than his statistical efficiency is Derrickson’s skill and footwork. Entering Georgetown as a shooter, the sophomore has since developed a post-game that features spin moves, up-and-unders and a deft quickness in the post.
As for Mosely, the former St. Anthony’s standout has been up and down. A starter for every game except the last, the freshman has impressed with superior ball control and a knack for avoiding mistakes: Mosely averages just 1.3 turnovers per game in 19.8 minutes per game.
Derrickson’s consistency, efficiency and skill — not to mention his natural talent and athleticism — all point toward gradual improvement and an expectation of increased production in his final two years. However, the departures of Paul White and Isaac Copeland this season remain cautionary tales.
There is every chance Derrickson fails to become the leader the team may desperately need next season.
While the reasons for White leaving for Oregon and Copeland for Nebraska are almost entirely dissimilar, the transfers do feature a common thread: There is an objective lack of improvement from top recruits who were expected to reinvigorate the Georgetown program.
It is easy to point toward cases like Henry Sims (COL ’12) and even Hayes as emblems of hard work, but top recruits have recently failed to become the players most expected them to be.
Either the player development regimen is lacking, or the players simply do not want to put in the work to get better.
And while critiques of many aspects of the Georgetown basketball program garner disparate amounts of validity, training regimen should not be one of them. With the Thompson Athletic Center’s state-of-the-art weight room, training facilities and dedicated basketball courts, there is no excuse for a player’s inability to train around-the-clock.
The onus, then, is on players to develop their own games and in part on the coaches to recruit for work ethic and dedication. With Derrickson, Govan and Mosely most likely returning next season, along with the addition of Waters and Walker, Georgetown could find its core and avoid rebuilding in the aftermath of the departures of Pryor, Hayes, Cameron and potentially Peak.
But even then, even with the right player in the right system and all cylinders clicking, uncertainty can still exist beneath even the most promising of seasons.
Just ask Creighton.
Paolo Santamaria is a junior in the College. He is the Executive Editor of The Hoya.
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