By John Fanta
FOX Sports college basketball writer
Patrick Ewing opened the door to his program’s practice room, walked past a wooden chair with a towel draped over it, and continued across the square to his seat for an interview on a spring afternoon.
He was wearing a black shirt We are George Town on it, a phrase that suits him best. That phrase and his physique as he strutted across the hardwood carried a boundless amount of college basketball nostalgia.
The 7-footer also wore a large blue cast on his left arm, the result of wrist surgery that had to be performed after years of NBA attrition. The Hall of Famers couldn’t wait to take those off in a few weeks. Even after his active days, Recovery is still frustrated.
The facility? The John R Thompson Center. The chair with the towel? It remains in its position right at the entrance to the gym. Just like the bronze statue at the front of the building, you can’t miss these objects that honor the Hall of Fame coach who made Georgetown a powerful program in the 1980s and ’90s.
The Hoyas were more than winners. They influenced culture in the Washington, DC area and beyond. It was Cold cheer for Georgetown basketball, and Ewing was the prime example of that. He led the program to the 1984 national title before being selected by the New York Knicks with the 1985 No. 1 draft pick.
Patrick Ewing: #28 in Nick Wright’s 50 Greatest NBA Players of the Last 50 Years
One of the best shooting centers of all time, Patrick Ewing exited the game as the New York Knicks’ all-time leader in almost every major category, while ending in 13th place all-time in the game (24,815 points).
In 2022, things will look very different in Georgetown. It’s been almost two years since Thompson died, and the Hoyas lost the man who represented everything the basketball program and the university is about.
Ewing, persuaded by Thompson to follow in his footsteps and take over at his alma mater, begins his sixth season at the helm. He’s coming off the toughest season of his basketball life, a 6-25 season that included a 0-19 mark in the Big East game and 21 straight season-ending losses.
“We were in a place I never thought we would be,” Ewing said. “Last year was difficult. It was frustrating. Although I’ve never won a championship in the NBA, I’ve never lost so much in my life.”
The concept of Georgetown basketball ranked bottom in the Big East Conference would be eye-opening at any time. At this time last year, that thought wasn’t there. That’s because the Hoyas clinched a true conference record and booked a ticket to the NCAA tournament after their unlikely Big East Tournament run in 2020 — winning four games in four days at Madison Square Garden.
The whole vision that Thompson and co. had of putting Ewing back at the top of his alma mater was shown for two weeks, only to collapse the following season.
With the disappointing year ending and the inevitable rumors of a leadership change in Georgetown, Ewing issued a statement.
Hoyas athletic director Lee Reed released the following:
“In this ever-evolving landscape of collegiate athletics, we are committed to Coach Ewing and work with him to evaluate every aspect of the men’s basketball program and make the changes needed to put us back on the road to success next time.” Year.”
So there it is. With the vote of confidence in their head coach, the Hoyas ended speculation, but also made it clear that some changes could be on the way.
Let’s face it: Ewing is Georgetown Basketball, and if you thought he was going to step down or a change would be made, think again. That’s not Ewing as a person. That makes him one of the greatest players in basketball history.
“Give up? I’m not a quitter. I’m not a quitter,” Ewing said. “We’re at the bottom. There’s only one way, and that’s up. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not the type to stop grinding, stop working and say, ‘Woe is me.’ It’s just putting on my hard hat and steel-toed boots and hitting the bushes to try and rebuild my program.”
Effort should not be a question at Ewing. He is willing to put in the many hours it takes to run a college program. This case is not like Chris Mullin at St. John’s, a tenure that ended with trouble in 2019 question.
The reasons for Ewing’s lack of success are not hard work and the ability to make plans. He wants to please his trainer Thompson, whom he describes as a second father. He wants to show those who doubted him that he can be a head coach. It’s not just about attracting talented players – Ewing was able to do that – but keeping those players and not seeing them switch. Managing college kids and having that key recruiter who can focus on relationships was a key necessity to fill this offseason.
The key element of the rebuild was Ewing’s addition of Kevin Nickelberry to his staff. Just 116 days after the former LSU assistant and Howard head coach was named an assistant at Georgetown, it was announced Monday that Ewing would elevate Nickelberry to assistant head coach.
Ewing made no qualms when discussing the priority of the offseason.
“You can’t do it without talent,” he said. “Nothing against the guys we had here, they did their best. We just didn’t have enough (last year) to get over the hump.
“I said (Kevin) when he got here, ‘We need better talent. You gotta get your butt out and recruit. We need to find better talent.’”
Nickelberry wasted no time, and for a program born out of a winless conference season, you wouldn’t tell by looking at the recruiting dynamics the Hoyas possess.
Georgetown is fourth in the national recruitment page 247sports.com‘s transfer rankings as the Hoyas added seven newcomers from the portal.
Nickelberry, a former associate of LSU’s now-fired Will Wade, has brought in two Tigers, 6-5 guard Brandon Murray and 6-8 forward Bradley Ezewiro. Murray was in high demand with the schools, having been named to the All-SEC Freshman Team last season and averaging 10.0 points per game as a freshman while shooting 43% from the field.
Of the other headlining opportunities, the Hoyas bring Akok to the UConn transfer, a versatile 6-9 forward who is struggling with injuries but is an intriguing talent and an acquisition within the conference.
Indeed, perhaps the most influential addition to Georgetown is the return of the Qudus Wahab center to the program. The 6-11 tall man made the very mysterious move during the 2021 offseason to travel to Maryland from Georgetown, where he had just won a Big East title and was tutored by Ewing.
Between Mark Turgeon’s retirement mid-year and Wahab falling behind at College Park, averaging just 7.7 points and 5.6 boards per game, he entered the portal. The Hoyas, who desperately needed a big man over the course of Portal season, couldn’t ask for a better situation to fill the need with someone familiar with the program.
One of the other priority areas for Ewing was getting extra guard play. Nickelberry has addressed that need with Arizona State’s Jay Heath (10.6 PPG), Duquesne’s Primo Spears (12.7 PPG), and USC Upstate’s Bryson Mozone (15.8 PPG).
As for the new rookie, the Hoyas welcome a 6-2 four-star combo keeper in Denver Anglin and a 6-7 three-star forward in D’Ante Bass. Ewing is high on Anglin, who hails from Gill St. Bernard’s in New Jersey and has pulled the Hoyas through Providence, Stanford, and Northwestern.
“Denver is an elite shooter and I expect him to come in and help us off the jump,” Ewing said.
So it was an active off-season for Georgetown, which was absolutely necessary. With nine new faces, it leaves Ewing and company tasked with bringing it all together, but Nickelberry’s hiring and an influx of more talent is positive.
Ewing is not shying away from the surge in a challenging Big East that will likely pick the Hoyas in the bottom three when the preseason poll is released.
It’s not a realistic expectation that the Hoyas will be one of the top five teams in the conference, but battling toward the middle of the league rather than being in the basement should be a goal for the program. There must be signs in 2022-23 that this new rebuild is promising.
Therefore Ewings We are George Town Shirt was so fitting. Just as he is primarily responsible for leading the program to a national championship and golden era as a player, it is his responsibility to make up for the struggles he has had in his coaching tenure and put the program back on the map.
“This offseason has been about rebuilding what Georgetown basketball is about,” he said. “My goal is to get back to the level Coach Thompson was when I was here as a player.
“The way things happened last year, it can never happen again under my supervision.”
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of roles, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to commentating on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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