"LIL' RED RIDING HOOD"
Surely John Thompson, the big bad wolf of college basketball, is sated. After directing a four-year, one-man wrecking crew named Patrick and beholding divine intervention in Villanova's Perfect Game, he should be ready for calm. Especially because this Georgetown team looks kind of skinny. "A lot of people are ready to put the flowers on our grave," says the man who was called St. John before he started winning so much. Then he flashes a vulpine smile. "We like that. In fact, we love that."
Not that Georgetown will be as good as the team that outrebounded opponents by nine boards a game, held them to 40% shooting and won 35 games by an average of 18.7 points last season. After all, no one else lost two athletes as good as Patrick Ewing and Bill Martin. Still, they were the only players Georgetown lost. The Hoyas will again be a 10- to 12-man wave of quick, tough and disciplined players. They may not crash against opponents as majestically as Ewing's teams did; but they still may be better than everyone else.
Junior Reggie Williams and seniors Michael Jackson and David Wingate are the best perimeter players in the country, and with Ewing gone they get to prove it the hard way. Defenses against Georgetown will no longer have to concede the 15-footer, so shots will be harder earned and more likely to result in loss of possession if they miss. On defense, steal attempts will require more judgment and skill without Ewing there to erase the effect of a failed gamble. "We know we have to raise our game above last season," says Wingate. "If we're called upon to do more," adds Williams, "we will."
Thompson's big men will have to respond as affirmatively to the call for rebounding. Thompson will ask the most of 6'11" center Ralph Dalton, who decided to stay at Georgetown as a business school graduate student and play a final year. (He missed his freshman year with a knee injury.) Though decidedly more the stuff of M.B.A. than NBA, Dalton is a banger who proved himself poised and effective when Ewing was in foul trouble in big games. Dalton also has a propensity for fouling, and no one knows how many minutes his knee can take. But when he does sit down, the Hoyas will remain physical in the middle with freshman Johnathan Edwards, a 6'8½", 240-pound All-America from New Orleans who has impressed Thompson. "Ralph and Johnathan have that football mentality," he says. "They like to touch things."
Thompson is less forthcoming on who his big forward might be. The much-rumored return of Michael Graham never materialized (he went to the University of the District of Columbia), and prize recruit 6'7" Darryl Prue, an All-America from Washington, was not admitted to the school and ended up at West Virginia. The answer could be 6'10" sophomore Grady Mateen, who is listed as a center but plays better around the key than in it. Ronnie Highsmith is an aggressive 6'8" rebounder but lacks offense.
Hoya shock troopers will be worthy of their legacy, particularly in the back-court. Senior guard Horace Broadnax shoots nearly as well as Jackson and is a better defender. To tired opponents, a couple of gritty 6'4" sophomores, Perry McDonald and Kevin Floyd, will seem much bigger and faster when they are turned loose in Georgetown's pressure defense. "Harder and stronger and more hustle," says McDonald. "That's this year for us."
It's the kind of forward thinking Thompson wants to hear. He admits the upset by Villanova hurt but concludes: "Look behind, be behind." Of Ewing's departure, he says, "We will miss Patrick, but nobody else will have a Patrick-like player either."
The Hoyas will have less margin for error, but Thompson seems stimulated by the challenge. "I'm excited, a lot more than I have been in a long time," he says. "I got a little bored in the last four years."
Dalton should soften the effect of Ewing's graduation, to a degree.