JTIII fights through FGCU pain on recruiting trail

JTIII fights through FGCU pain on recruiting trail
April 17, 2013, 11:45 am
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Georgetown's stunning NCAA Tournament loss to Florida Gulf Coast gave Otto Porter Jr. reason to pause. A decision on his playing future would come, but emotions needed to cool off. Eventually they did and now the All-American is off to the NBA.

John Thompson III had no such break in the action. Recruiting stops for no coach, no matter the pain.

With Porter's production and Thompson's direction, the Hoyas captured a share of the Big East regular season title and a earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament despite sporting a youthful roster and missing a key player for much of the campaign.

On March 22, the positive vibes from those achievements came crashing down in a familiar manner. For the fifth straight time, the Hoyas lost to a double-digit seed, this time to a cocky and dunking underdog.

Georgetown's season ended that night in Philadelphia. Thompson's role as program builder did not. 

"This job is broken into many different phases, many different times of the year depending on what the season is," the Hoyas coach told CSNwashington on Monday following his star player's announcement that he is leaving college for the NBA Draft.

"If we're going back to that loss, is that loss still devastating, does it still hurt - absolutely. I can't let that affect recruiting. You still gotta work."

The head Hoya acknowledged the hurt isn't going anyway anytime soon.

"It will be until our first game next season," Thompson said.

Before Georgetown tips off next season in November against some opponent, somewhere, there is indeed plenty of work to do.

Even without Porter the Hoyas potentially return a full and highly competitive roster, including leading returning scorer Markel Starks, starting forward Nate Lubick and All-Big East freshman selection D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Georgetown played last season without any senior. Incoming freshman Reggie Cameron is a touted recruit with a potent perimeter game.

Replacing Porter's all-court production won't be simple or perhaps possible, but it will be easier if Greg Whittington and UCLA transfer Josh Smith are eligible. I asked about the frontcourt pair during the press conference and Thompson said he "anticipates" having both available next season.

Thompson passed on going into further detail in deference to it being Porter's big day. There also may simply be nothing else to add right now.

Whittington missed the final 19 games of the season after being declared academically ineligible back in January. According to the Georgetown University website, spring semester grades for undergraduates are due on May 15. Based on his own Twitter account, the Columbia native sounds like he intends on being back with the program next season.

At the time of his suspension, the 6-foot-8 sophomore ranked second on the team in scoring and rebounding. The long-limbed and versatile forward held the unofficial title as Georgetown's best defender. Offensively, Whittington is a threat at and above the rim. He has deep perimeter range, though at times attempts more shots from beyond the 3-point arc than desirable.

Porter led the Hoyas in numerous statistical categories. Whittington arguably outpaces his soon-to-be ex-teammate in upside. One NBA scout copped to the grander potential, but also said of Whittington following his suspension, "potential is not production" and "you must play to show either."

The 6-foot-10 Smith left UCLA six games into his junior season and joined Georgetown's program in January. The question Thompson and others within the program are wrestling with is whether Smith has two or three semesters of eligibility remaining.

Though considered a viable NBA prospect, weight issues have clouded Smith's professional future and helped end his run with the Bruins. Listed at 310 pounds, he reportedly weighed well above that figure at UCLA.

Having Smith available at least halfway through the upcoming campaign would give the Hoyas a low-post presence it lacked this past season. With both Smith and Whittington, Georgetown likely enters next season ranked inside top-10 rankings.

Even with Porter leaving, there are technically no roster slots available, though backbenchers moving on are always a possibility. Sophomore Tyler Adams' medical condition could open space. Adams missed the 2012-13 with an unspecified heart ailment.

As for the aforementioned recruiting, the Hoyas reportedly offered a scholarship to 5-foot-10 guard Jaylen Brantley, according to ESPN.com. Adding the Notre Dame Prep (Ma.) product would address the program's need for a backup point guard behind Starks. Including Georgetown, Brantley reportedly has offers from Florida, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Iowa State.

The Hoyas have already received a commitment for 2014 from forward Isaac Copeland, a four-star recruit according to ESPN.

Even though Porter's departure hurts the Hoyas hopes next season, sending another player into the NBA helps on the recruiting trail. Based on draft projections, Porter will join Jeff Green and Greg Monroe as early-entry top-5 selections. Roy Hibbert stayed four years at became an NBA All-Stars. Their NBA jerseys along with other former Georgetown players hang inside McDonough Arena where Porter announced his decision.

"You can go look at the wall in there; we've consistently sent guys to the league," Thompson said. 

As a teacher, as a molder of young men, that fact must help ease Thompson's NCAA Tournament pain, at least a little.