JTIII: Whittington back next season, Smith expected

JTIII: Whittington back next season, Smith expected
May 31, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Georgetown forward Greg Whittington, academically ineligible for the final 19 games last season, will play for the Hoyas in 2013-14, coach John Thompson III said in an exclusive interview with CSNwashington.

Thompson also anticipates having Josh Smith on the court for the 2013-14 season, though uncertainty remains regarding when the former UCLA transfer would begin playing and how much eligibility the center would ultimately have.

Recently Thompson attempted to bolster the Hoyas frontcourt for next season by recruiting former Memphis power forward Tarik Black, who ended up choosing Kansas. The coach denied any connection between interest in the immediately eligible Black and the situations regarding Whittington and Smith, who joined the program in January.

Off last year's Big East regular season championship team, the Hoyas lost Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter Jr. to the NBA and little-used freshman forward Brandon Bolden, who transferred to Kansas State.

"Everyone else is coming back," Thompson stated.

In 13 games last season, Whittington averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds, ranking second on the team in both categories behind fellow sophomore Porter. The Columbia native's final game was the decisive 73-45 home loss to Pittsburgh, which dropped the Hoyas to 0-2 in the Big East standings.

With Porter playing at a level that would later earn him All-American honors, the Hoyas rebounded to win 14 of their final regular season games, share a piece of the Big East regular season title and earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Though he continued practicing with the team, Whittington could only watch the remaining games, often from the Hoyas bench.

"I think Greg grew up a lot this year, a hell of a lot." Thompson said. "It was painful for him...He's made strides, not just in the classroom, but who he is. He's growing up."

Porter is a projected top-5 selection in the upcoming NBA Draft and could be the No. 1 overall pick. With his capabilities as a scorer, defender and ball handler, Whittington arguably outpaced his classmate in upside. 

Only a few months into Whittington's freshman season, former Georgetown coach and one-time radio host John Thompson Jr. said on air that the 6-foot-8 forward's skill set could set him apart from even the most hallowed defenders that came through the program. Speaking with CSNwashington, one NBA scout copped to the grander potential, but also said of Whittington, "potential is not production."

Smith transferred from UCLA after playing six games as a junior in part because of weight-related issues. The 6-foot-10, 300-plus pounder is eligible to play for Georgetown starting the second semester of the upcoming season - and would do so as a senior. Outside of applying for a waiver and the NCAA granting it, Smith can play either the one semester or sit out the 2013-14 season and be eligible to play in both semesters of the 2014-15 campaign.

Thompson declined comment on Smith's ongoing eligibility situation. Asked if he expects to play for the team next season, the coach paused before responding with a tentative "yes."

Smith averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds as a freshman and in his early days at UCLA was considered a legitimate first-round prospect. However, his numbers dropped as a sophomore and even further as a junior to 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds.

Beyond Whittington and Smith, Georgetown has several frontcourt options including returning starters Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins, Moses Ayegba and Bradley Hayes. The versatile Whittington will take over Porter's small forward role, where Aaron Bowen, Stephen Domingo and incoming freshman Reggie Cameron could also receive minutes. Markel Starks, Jabril Trawick and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera form the guard rotation though Whittington will also see minutes in the backcourt, Thompson said. 

Following Bolden's transfer, one scholarship remains open for the upcoming season. While always on the search for talent, Thompson said he's not actively seek to add a player for the sake of filling the slot.

"Always looking to fill it if it's the right person, but I don't think there is a dire need to fill it," the coach said. "But if the right situation, the right person that makes us better, we'll use it."