Monroe-less Hoyas put faith in backcourt

May, 13, 2010

WASHINGTON -- Good thing I put Georgetown in the top 25.

Despite losing center Greg Monroe to the NBA draft, the Hoyas are confident they'll be in the mix for the Big East title, with one of the top backcourts in the country.

"We all know [Monroe is] a good player, and he was really good and did a lot for us,'' said rising senior guard Austin Freeman, Georgetown's leading returning scorer. "We'll miss his passing and how he could find everybody. He knew where everybody was on the floor. That's one of the main parts of his game, and we'll miss that.''

But …

The Hoyas will be able to lean on the perimeter with Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark. All three of them can be prolific scorers and have shown that ability in the past.

"We're going to be really good,'' Freeman said. "We're going to have one of the top backcourts in the country with Chris Wright, Jason Clark and me and Vee Sanford and [freshmen] Markel Starks and Aaron Bowen. Our frontcourt will be productive and contribute. We'll have to get them the ball.''

Freshman center Moses Abraham worked out with Kentucky freshman and NBA-bound DeMarcus Cousins on Tuesday in southeast Washington. Abraham isn't as skilled as Cousins in handling the ball, but he showed his length (6-foot-9) and agility (240 pounds) and could be an effective low-post scorer and face-up shooter. He'll join Hollis Thompson, Julian Vaughn, Jerrelle Benimon, Henry Sims and top-50 freshman Nate Lubick as a collective Monroe replacement crew.

"We'll have the bodies and play the post by committee,'' Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "But we'll have much more on the perimeter. We'll miss Greg's passing, but in many ways we're going to be deeper.''

The Hoyas are still smarting from the 97-83 blowout loss to 14-seed Ohio in the NCAA tournament's first round, the most stunning margin of defeat of the tourney. But there's little doubt that Georgetown should be in the mix with Pitt, Syracuse and Villanova for the Big East title.

A few other quick hitters:
• ACC coaches met the past few days, and expansion wasn't a hot topic at their level. According to multiple sources, the ACC hierarchy led the coaches to believe that if any schools get poached (Miami, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech or Maryland) by any other conference, then the ACC would look to replace the schools but not expand beyond 12.

• Texas got good news when guard Varez Ward and Shawn Williams each received a hardship waiver from the Big 12. Ward will be a sophomore, while Williams will be a freshman next season. Ward suffered a freak ruptured right quad tendon during warmups prior to playing Pitt in the CBE Classic in Kansas City on Nov. 24. Texas coach Rick Barnes said at the time that Ward would have been an integral member of the team and was one of its top defenders. Had Ward been healthy, he might have been able to add some stability to an unstable backcourt last season. Williams had left ankle surgery in January.

• The Louisville-Courier Journal reported that Oregon assistant Kenny Payne is happy with the Ducks and has no interest in the opening on Kentucky's staff now that Rod Strickland has been reassigned (post-DUI) to a non-traveling, non-recruiting, administrative position. But here's the deal: As connected as Payne has been in the Nike world, does Wildcats coach John Calipari really need Payne? Has Oregon nabbed players Kentucky couldn't? Sometimes the recruiting assistants are overhyped a bit.

• Memphis will head out to the Bahamas or Costa Rica in August per coach Josh Pastner. The Tigers aren't playing in an exempted tournament, but not because they can't -- rather, they are choosing not to this season. A rule change allows a team to play in a tournament as well as to go on a foreign tour. The new rule does allow newcomers to go on the tour if they've passed three summer credit hours.

Pepperdine (Italy) and Southern Utah (Australia) are on the road now. Basketball Travelers, which coordinates a lot of these trips, has other trips planned for August:

South Florida (Brazil)
Florida Atlantic (Amsterdam, Ghent, Belgium, Paris)
Quinnipiac (Amsterdam, Ghent, Belgium, Paris)
Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Italy)
Loyola Marymount (Spain)
George Mason (Italy)
Drexel (Turkey)
Ohio (Bahamas)
Minnesota (Vancouver)

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer


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