After a tumultuous season to say the least, things are looking up for Georgetown (2024)

Editor’s note: This offseason The Athletic is again exploring the college basketball landscape with in-depth examinations of 75 key programs. This story is a part of that continuing series.

It was all going according to plan, until it wasn’t. Patrick Ewing’s third season began as an ode to the classical college basketball rebuild, the time-honored tradition of incremental improvement, of bringing a group along together. The 2019-20 season would be the one when a more experienced, still young, deeper than ever group of Hoyas would bring the program back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in half a decade. With that out of the way, the 2020-21 season would be the one wherein Georgetown basketball was officially, fully, undeniably, once-and-for-all back.


Then the 2019-20 season happened. What was meant to be a progressive culmination instead morphed into a rolling months-long mess of personnel departures, off-court distractions and injuries, one that left Ewing’s once-deep team playing basically five players a night for the final month of a once-promising Big East season. Throw in the offseason, which began with Mac McClung’s sudden departure and included the death of Georgetown icon (and Ewing’s coach) John Thompson Jr., and perhaps no program in college basketball (at least among those not involved in FBI investigation fallout, and maybe even then) has faced quite as much varying tumult in the past calendar year.

So then: What now?

Ewing, as ever, is undaunted. “It was a bump in the road,” he says. “My mom and dad always told me whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We had some adversity in terms of guys leaving. But in life, you’re going to have bumps in the road. What defines you, what makes you a man, is how you come out of it.”

Considering all of the new faces — and the returning faces expected to play in ways they maybe haven’t before — it’s not surprising that Ewing is in a sort of wait-and-see mode with his newest team. Some of that comes from personnel freshness. Much of it comes from timing. As of last Friday, several Hoyas were still finishing out their 14-day quarantines after arriving back on campus two weeks ago. The players Ewing had seen in workouts still haven’t progressed beyond individual stuff. Still, Ewing, with a refreshed roster and a hard-working spirit brought forward from the end of last season, is also optimistic this team can get there before the season is done.

“We need time to develop, to see what we have, to gel as a team,” Ewing says. “We’re going through the process. We still feel we have just as good a chance as anybody to be good.”


The big question

Can the Hoyas’ whole be more than the sum of their parts?

It is hard to overstate just how new, just how totally remade, this roster is. In the past 10 months, the Hoyas have lost nine players. Last winter, star guard James Akinjo transferred to Arizona, the result of basketball disagreements about role and fit. Wing Josh LeBlanc left at the same time, and was followed not long after by guard Myron Gardner and forward Galen Alexander, amid the public discovery of restraining orders filed against them by a Georgetown student, among other allegations. After the season, in a surprise twist, McClung returned from testing the NBA Draft waters just in time to announce he had decided to transfer.

The news was a massive surprise, even to the Hoyas; in the days prior, Ewing publicly said McClung would be returning, which apparently angered McClung and his “camp,” which sounds ridiculous, we know, but that’s more or less how it went down. Ewing was sure McClung would be back, and was shocked when his guard sprung the decision.

“I thought he’d come back,” Ewing says. “He was an integral part of what we were trying to do. We gave him an opportunity to play. Whatever the reason is that he chose to leave, I’m still going to root for him. I think he’s a great kid and wish him the best.”

And then there were the good, old-fashioned departures: Omer Yurtseven to pursue a professional career. Beloved senior Jagan Mosely to graduation, Terrell Allen to the same. George Muresan too. College basketball rosters aren’t that big. Nine guys is a ton.

With respect, the fact Muresan, a walk-on, was playing minutes at the end of the season spoke to how much the Hoyas were struggling with personnel. As frustrating as it was, there was a certain amount of pride involved in the way Georgetown finished last season. Ewing’s players — three guards who played basically 40 minutes a night for several weeks straight, plus junior forward Jamorko Pickett and freshman center Qudus Wahab; the rotation was ideally just those five — dug deep. “They showed character,” Ewing says. “They showed a toughness, a resiliency.”


Things shouldn’t be quite so Alamo this time around. With an offseason to reset, Ewing and his staff landed a trio of grad transfers: Arkansas guard Jalen Harris, Siena guard Donald Carey and Northwestern State forward Chudier Bile. All three are experienced, all three should help fill out the rotation, all three have a good chance to be more than just warm bodies to put on the floor. A four-man recruiting class, led by four-star forward Jamari Sibley, fills things out more. And there are some interesting players still on board. Wahab was one of last season’s pleasant surprises. Pickett might, despite being a senior, still have potential left to tap. Senior guard Jahvon Blair did solid-enough work in challenging circ*mstances last spring.

Still, asking specific tactical questions about this team almost feels beside the point. The real question is about what Ewing has, and how quickly he can put it together. Are these guys better than many observers expect? Can players such as Wahab and Blair make a leap? Can Sibley excel right away? Can Ewing both develop this group of guys quickly and find a way to make them better as a group than they would be as individuals? “There’s a sense of trust,” Wahab says. “I believe in Coach. I really believe in him. And I believe in our guys. I think we have special guys coming in, and we’re going to do great stuff this year.”

The alternative, of course, is that this is just a rebuilding year.

If so, well, hey, it happens. The past 10 months have been rough. But in Ewing’s fourth season, being back at Square 1 — starting the building process that went unfinished last season all the way over again from scratch — is no Georgetown fan’s ideal timeline. Can these Hoyas be more?

After a tumultuous season to say the least, things are looking up for Georgetown (1)

After getting starter’s minutes last season, Blair will be counted on even more. (Steven Branscombe / USA Today)

Roster breakdown


If Georgetown is going to exceed expectations, by Ewing’s own view, it will be because his most experienced returning players take them there. That starts with Jahvon Blair. At the beginning of last season, Blair was expected to be little more than a rotational piece. As a sophom*ore, he played just 29.4 percent of available minutes, and as a junior, he was behind Akinjo, McClung, Mosely and Allen (at least) in the perimeter pecking order. He didn’t play a minute in Georgetown’s impressive 82-66 win over Texas at Madison Square Garden in November, then played just eight minutes and seven minutes, respectively, in the next two games against Duke and UNC Greensboro.

Then Akinjo left, and opportunities opened up. By the time McClung was injured in a narrow Jan. 28 home loss to Butler, Blair was the team’s sixth man, more or less. On Feb. 2, the first game without McClung (a rousing 73-72 win at St. John’s), Blair played 40 minutes. He would play all 40 minutes in seven of the final 11 games. In the other four, he played 37, 38, 37, and 39. By the end of the season Blair became, for better or worse, an absolutely vital piece of the Georgetown puzzle. His end-of-season minutes average makes him look like a yearlong starter, and he finished the year having taken 25 percent of the Hoyas’ shots while on the floor. His shot 33 percent from deep, which wasn’t ideal with such large volume, but beggars can’t be choosers. It was often enough to get the Hoyas by, and the hopes are that with a bit less extreme pressure this season — but still the experience of having gone through it — Blair will be much more efficient.

Perimeter help arrives by way of Jalen Harris, the 6-foot-2 Arkansas grad transfer with 97 career games on his C.V. Harris struggled in his first season under new coach Eric Musselman; his assist rate shrunk and his turnover rate ballooned. But as a sophom*ore point guard on a decent-enough Razorbacks team, Harris posted a 31.7 percent assist rate (including the seventh-highest rate in SEC play), while keeping turnovers to a healthy level and getting to the free-throw line regularly. He has never been much of a perimeter shooter; he shot 8-of-69 from 3 as a sophom*ore, though he did get that up to 17-of-61 a year ago. He is at the very least an experienced player who has had the ball in his hands a lot at the high-major level. In an ideal world, his shooting will improve, and he will be able to commandeer playmaking responsibilities without shrinking Georgetown’s offensive space too much.


Donald Carey, anyway, should bring shooting. The two-year grad transfer arrives after a sophom*ore season at Siena — for a pretty good 20-10 team — in which he made 55 of 144 from 3 and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line. Carey profiles mostly as a spot-up shooter on the wing, but Georgetown desperately needs any kind of shooting, so he’ll most likely get significant minutes right away.

The first of three freshmen at the guard position is Kobe Clark, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard ranked 63rd at the position in the Class of 2020. (And so the wave of kids named after Kobe Bryant begins. We’re here for it.) Clark is renowned for his athleticism and willingness to put dudes on a poster — see here — but his level of collegiate perimeter polish is a bit of an open question. Dante Harris, a 5-foot-10 point guard, looks slightly less likely to play this season, given Blair and Jalen Harris, though he could get on the floor here and there as development for next season. Even less likely to contribute right away might be guard T.J. Berger, a relatively unknown prospect who initially committed to Penn before Georgetown swooped in for him in the wake of its personnel exodus.


Jamorko Pickett is feeling himself. “Can’t even name what happen specifically,” Pickett tweeted last week. “I just woke up one morning was like who tf better than you? No f*ing body.”

Pickett has since signed off on Twitter until the start of the season, but before he did he landed some extremely high-quality tweets, ones that provide a bit of insight into both his own mind and the way he views his teammates heading into the season.

There was this stuff about the roster …

• This’ll 100% be the most fun team I’ve played on and you’ll watch. Since I’ve been here at Georgetown. 2020-2021 😷

— Jamorko Pickett🥀🧡 (@JamorkoP1) September 23, 2020

• This is a very versatile team! People throw that word around to loosely these days I think. BUT we have a lot of guys that could play multiple positions. We could go big Don, Me, Chudi, Q and Timmy or small. Jalen Donte, Von, Sibley and Big M (Malcom) 😭

— Jamorko Pickett🥀🧡 (@JamorkoP1) September 23, 2020

… which, not for nothing, Ewing echoes: “That’s one of the things about the team we have, we have guys that are very, very interchangeable, that can play multiple positions, and I think that’s what’s going to make us different from years past.”

That’s a big part of Pickett’s appeal, of the tantalizing, occasionally frustrating talent that now enters his fourth season as a Hoya. At 6-foot-8, Pickett is a genuine perimeter threat; he has shot 36.2 percent on a healthy diet of 3s (367). To look at Pickett’s lanky frame, perimeter shooting skill and block and rebounding rates is to instinctively assume one is seeing a future pro. A wing this big, with arms this long, who hits 3s and guards? No-brainer, right? Yet Pickett is entering his senior season for reasons — inconsistency, coaching changes, ugly turnover rates, et al. — that have long driven Georgetown fans mildly mad.

Is this the year Pickett makes the leap? Is it still possible for a player with his talent to be a senior and have untapped reserves of productivity? Pickett certainly seems to think so, and he’s right about this much …

• Stay focused Marko no distractions what so ever. Last dance and you got people counting on you. A lot of people.

— Jamorko Pickett🥀🧡 (@JamorkoP1) September 22, 2020

A lot of people are counting on him. “He’s always shown glimpses,” Ewing says. “For three years, he’s shown glimpses. We need him to rise to the top now and have a great, great senior year for us.” If Georgetown is to be better than expected, Pickett will have to be better than expected, and a little offseason self-confidence epiphany couldn’t hurt.

Another reason to feel optimistic about Georgetown’s future is Jamari Sibley, the most highly touted freshman in the Hoyas’ arriving class. Sibley is another player Ewing cited as giving him more rotational options than he has had in the past, a bouncy 6-foot-8 forward most adept attacking as a face-up player, with the occasional bonus of perimeter shooting. That’s not a strength, at least not yet, but Sibley’s size and ability to play in the open court certainly are. “He’s talented, with size and the ability to shoot it,” Ewing says. “He can defend — and defend multiple positions.”

Another flexible piece, as Pickett’s tweet noted, is Chudier Bile, a 6-foot-6 grad transfer from Northwestern State. Bile toiled in relative obscurity in the Southland Conference a season ago, but he was pretty good; in his first year in Natchitoches, he was immediately the Demons’ most important player. He averaged 30.9 percent usage and took 27.1 percent of his team’s shots while on the floor. He rebounded extremely well (especially on the defensive end), blocked 4.9 shots per 100 possessions, drew 6.7 fouls per 40 minutes and shot 73.7 percent from the free-throw line, 40 percent from 2, and 38.5 percent from 3.

Naturally, the Big East is a whole other level, and Bile’s turnover rate (26.6) was prohibitive, but his productivity is pretty impressive. If he can bring a decent fraction of that to the Hoyas, he could be one of the better under-the-radar additions in the league this season.


The eighth new player (true story), Collin Holloway is a 6-foot-6 freshman wing from Louisiana. He adds some more size and ostensibly more positional versatility, although finding a spot in the rotation most likely will be an uphill climb.


In many ways, the centerpiece of Georgetown’s season could be Qudus Wahab, whose emergence was one of the few genuinely bright spots in 2019-20. More on him in the spotlight section below.

Of course, Wahab wasn’t the only young big man to get some run when the roster got small late in the season. Timothy Ighoefe, also 6-foot-11, also a freshman, was a beneficiary of the drastically shortened rotation as the season went along. Before Feb. 15, Inghoefe appeared in just five games, for a combined 14 minutes. After that, he played in all but one of the final eight games, averaging 12.3 minutes per. It’s hard to draw too much from Inghoefe’s production, but his rebounding rates were promising, especially on the offensive end; if he can recreate anything remotely similar in a larger sample he could be an intriguing sophom*ore big.

Malcolm Wilson may still be a bit further off; even with the roster exodus, the reserve big man didn’t get on the court much last season. He’s depth at this point. So, too, will be Victor Muresan, who continues Georgetown’s streak of walk-on Muresan spawn for a fifth straight season. “His dad, Big Gheorge, used to kick my ass when we played, but little George did a great job for us last year,” Ewing says. “We’re happy to have another Muresan.”

After a tumultuous season to say the least, things are looking up for Georgetown (2)

As the season progressed, Wahab went from rotational player to go-to guy. (Brad Penner / USA Today)

Spotlight on: Qudus Wahab

A funny thing happened midway through last season: Every time Qudus Wahab got off the bench to check in at Capital One Arena, fans began to break out in song. Ohhhh, Qudus Wa-Haaaab, ohhh Qudus Wa-haaaab, the tune went, in a traditionally soccer-ish rhythm. Wahab remembers hearing it for the first time, standing there at midcourt, being slightly taken aback. “I was really surprised when I heard people singing my name,” Wahab says. “I don’t know where that came from. Probably some of my friends.”

OK, probably, but still: Wahab was the only player Georgetown fans sang about last season. That he managed to forge that sort of connection with the Hoyas faithful that early in his career is a fair indication of just how impressive he was as a freshman, not just how hard he played.

When the song first picked up steam, Wahab was still mostly a spot reserve, spelling starting center Omer Yurtseven whenever needed. This turned out to be pretty often; Yurtseven averaged 4.1 fouls per 40 minutes, and he frequently was back on the bench after picking up two early fouls, or a fourth with 10 minutes left to play, or whatever. Wahab proved a capable replacement, a 6-foot-11 center with long arms and a healthy amount of bounce. He lacked Yurtseven’s polish away from the rim and couldn’t quite match his Turkish teammate’s elite offensive rebounding rates, but he was simple and efficient with the ball in his hands around the rim.


He was also a sneaky-good post-up player, which Georgetown discovered — or was forced to discover — late in the season, when Yursteven’s injury added yet more strain to an already depleted lineup. Forty-two percent of Wahab’s possessions were post-up plays, per Synergy; he converted at a perfectly respectable 0.90 points per possession. (That’s respectable relative to other post-up plays, it should be noted; posting up is not exactly the most efficient method of scoring unless you’re, like, Nikola Jokic.) Wahab was also excellent as a pick-and-roll screener, where soft hands and straightforward paint finishing helped him keep the offense alive in its late-season rage against the dying of the light.

The next step, of course, is about more than soft touch and innate awareness; the next step is to become a bona fide go-to player, the kind of iso big Ewing wants to be at the center of a versatile four-out NBA-style offense. Wahab has a real chance on this front: According to, 49 percent of the Nigerian center’s attempts came within a couple feet of the rim last season, while 52 percent registered as jumpers. He shot 69 percent on the former and 48 percent on the latter. That’s a versatile array, and one that won’t necessarily require Wahab to catch the ball in any one area. And if he can expand his jumper even farther from the rim — he was a 63-percent free-throw shooter, so there’s a chance he can — he has star potential in the Big East, if not this season then soon enough.

As difficult as those last few weeks were, they were almost certainly good for Wahab. “I remember my first start, against Butler,” Wahab says of a Feb. 15 trip to Indianapolis, just after Yurtseven’s injury and a couple weeks after the Hoyas had lost McClung. “Coach just said, ‘Q, you just have to step up. You’re a starter now. Step up.'” Wahab had an efficient 11 points and seven rebounds. “You get some experience, you know, and it all starts to feel a little bit more comfortable,” he says.

In January, Wahab was a promising freshman reserve surprised to hear fans singing his name. By March, he was a starter playing massive minutes in the heart of a Big East campaign. Whenever fans get back in college gyms, odds are Georgetown’s will be singing Wahab’s name even louder.


When we polled Georgetown fans this summer, one common response to “what would you change about Georgetown basketball” was simple: “recruiting.” There was a gnawing sense among the fans — and one that predated Ewing’s arrival by years — that the Hoyas, even in successful modern incarnations, haven’t recruited like the ostensibly elite college hoops power they would like it to be.

Ewing hasn’t totally changed that calculus. What he has done, though, is recruit intelligently. Before last season’s roster imploded (and, yes, maybe there’s a recruiting critique built into that too), the core group of Akinjo, LeBlanc and McClung looked set to take the Hoyas back to the NCAA Tournament and beyond. That was Ewing’s first recruiting class; just one of those players (Akinjo) ranked in the top 100; McClung was vastly underrated, down in the mid-250s; the whole group looked like the result of really smart, savvy recruitment by Ewing and his staff. (The 2019 class, of Gardner and Alexander, was ranked the fourth-best in the Big East. Ouch.)

Georgetown fans will hope this recruiting class — which, again, isn’t stocked with obvious one-and-done-level stars — looks similarly savvy come the winter. Sibley at least will have plenty of time to figure things out on the fly as a freshman.


In the meantime, Ewing is out in front of next season too, with three commitments (No. 144 Jordan Riley, No. 147 Tyler Beard and No. 190 Jalen Billingsley) already lined up, and apparently strong interest from top-70 guard Jakai Robinson and four-star center Ryan Mutombo, the latter of whom is a recruiting battle you’d expect Georgetown to win.

Georgetown's 2020 recruiting class


Jamari Sibley

High school


6-8, 200

4-star, No. 101

Should offer flexibility on both ends of court

Kobe Clark

High school


6-4, 180

3-star, No. 372

Athletic shooting guard needs to refine game

Dante Harris

High school


5-10, 145

3-star, No. 409

Minutes figure to be limited for the point guard

Collin Holloway

High school


6-6, 220


18 ppg, 11 rpg as a senior

T.J. Berger

High school


6-4, 170


Signed with Hoyas after originally committing to Penn

Donald Carey

Grad transfer


6-5, 185

Shot 38.2% from deep last season at Siena

Walk-on follows in the shoes of his brother, George

Chudier Bile

Grad transfer


6-6, 195

14.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg last season at Northwestern State

Jalen Harris

Grad transfer


6-2, 166

4.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.4 apg last season at Arkansas

Schedule analysis

Right, the schedule. So. It’s not that Georgetown doesn’t still have some interesting games lined up. It does. Still, the Hoyas were scheduled to play in the Wooden Legacy in Anaheim, Calif., on Thanksgiving week, in a two-game event against Kansas, UCLA and Virginia, a quality field that could net them at least one, if not two solid opponents. That event looks like it will happen — most of ESPN’s early-season events are being relocated to a Disney bubble in Orlando — but if it does it will happen without Georgetown. Ewing confirmed as much to The Athletic, citing D.C.’s 14-day quarantine rule and overall safety concerns for the decision to withdraw.

There are still some good opportunities on the board. The Hoyas are also slated to play West Virginia in the Big East-Big 12 Battle, plus a Big Ten opponent in the Gavitt Games, plus a road trip to rival Syracuse, a fixture both schools have admirably kept alive since 2015-16.

Generally speaking, those are some quality opponents, especially for a rebuilding team. This schedule would be vastly better than the one Ewing played in his first season, which drew criticism for its softness.

It’s just that obviously no coach in the country knows much of anything about what his team’s schedule is going to look like in a couple of months. A couple of D.C.-area bubble events are in the works, though Georgetown isn’t considered to be among the programs closest to signing on, at least not yet. Everything is a mad scramble; everything is up in the air. Stay tuned.

The ceiling

For three years, Ewing’s team followed a conventional rebuilding path. He took over with his predecessor’s players, installed his system and asked his guys to do their best. He recruited his own class, in his image, and threw the players into the fire. He built out a quality roster in Year 3, a deep, 11-man rotation built to play exactly the sort of uptempo, next-man-up style he wanted to run — a team that targeted a return to the NCAA Tournament, to the usual Georgetown way, as its bare minimum outcome.

Then things fell apart. The question now is whether Georgetown can skip a step in that process, can surprise its fans and most observers. It’s not totally impossible. If Wahab makes the leap? If Sibley is even better than advertised? If Pickett finally gets his (long) arms around his game? If Blair and Harris can keep things ticking at guard? If the grad transfers can slot in right away? These are not crazy notions, at least not separately. Together, maybe, they mean this is a team that can hang in the top half of a wide-open Big East, can win a game or two in whatever the nonconference looks like, can show up in the NCAA Tournament after all.


“(The end of last season) made our bond stronger,” Wahab says. “I’m just looking forward to what’s ahead of us.”

The floor

Far more likely, of course, is a straight-up rebuild. For as wide open as the Big East appears to be, at least in its middle portions, very few teams look obviously worse than Georgetown. (DePaul, probably. Anyone else?) It is almost impossible to lose nine players in 10 months and expect to be anything other than a team trying to get better on a nightly basis.

Final report

There is every chance Pickett’s tweets are right: This will almost certainly be a more positionally flexible team, one with more rotation permutations than recent Hoyas squads have had. It may also be more fun. After last season, these Hoyas will almost certainly be more together and more focused than they ever have been.

The question is whether they have the talent. At this point, even Ewing doesn’t know. “It’s just hard when you’ve got so many new faces,” he says. Still, if last season was a bump in the road, Ewing is determined not to let it be the end of the journey.

(Top photo of Jamorko Pickett: Mitchell Layton / Getty)

After a tumultuous season to say the least, things are looking up for Georgetown (2024)
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