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Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Georgetown has staying power

By Dana O'Neil



NEW YORK -- Players leave. They get hurt.

Stuff, if you will, happens.

This isn’t exactly breaking news in sports, especially in college basketball where, in the age of one-and-done, a player’s tenure has the shelf life of milk left out on a July day in Vegas.

And so J’Covan Brown left Texas a year early for the NBA and Myck Kabongo, the subject of an NCAA investigation, isn’t playing for the Longhorns right now and Jaylen Bond is rehabbing a tricky foot injury and has no set return date.

Fair enough reasons behind the Longhorns' 5-3 record, their loss to Chaminade, and their 64-41 obliteration Tuesday at the hands of Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic, a game that wasn’t close from the tip.

So explain Georgetown, then.

The Hoyas lost their three leading scorers -- Jason Clark, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims. OK, they have Otto Porter, but the other guys who are starring -- Greg Whittington, Markel Starks, Nate Lubick -- were role players a season ago.

Yet the Hoyas are 6-1 and ranked 15th in the country. On the heels of a 24-9 season and a third-round exodus from the NCAA tournament, Georgetown, even without its top three players, looks better.

And the Longhorns look, well ... awful isn’t too strong, is it?

“It’s a fragile business, very fragile,’’ Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “A couple guys leave that you don’t expect -- like they have guys hurt, dealing with the NCAA -- it makes a big difference. The way you plan for things to do, from last year to the next, it changes and it’s hard.’’

Otto Porter
Sophomore forward Otto Porter (22) scored 14 points and grabbed 8 rebounds for the No. 15 Hoyas.
Except it never seems to be that hard for the Hoyas. Georgetown guys graduate or move on and yet here the Hoyas are, back in the mix just like every year. The lazy answer is to chalk it up to the Princeton system, a term Thompson despises, as if it is some smoke-and-mirrors game of deception that confuses everyone else.

The more simple solution is that the Hoyas recruit not just for the immediate but also for the long term, building a program instead of just a team.

Guys leave, and have left the Hoyas early. But there are plenty who stay and develop.

This team is a perfect example. Porter didn’t go the AAU route, didn’t have anything resembling a profile until he started a year ago. Now he’s a legit candidate for Big East Player of the Year.

“I think what makes this team exciting is we could get a lot better,’’ Lubick said. “There are a lot of things we can sharpen up on both ends of the floor. We’re a young team. We’re not looking at the rankings. We’re excited to get better.’’

Yeah, so are the Longhorns -- and considering this performance, they can’t get much worse.

Texas scored 41 points -- crossing the 40-point threshold only in the final minute of the game.

It was the Longhorns' fewest points in a game since 1987. Texas also coughed up 22 turnovers, which would be alarming except for the fact that it’s the third time in eight games the Longhorns have given the ball away more than 20 times.

Certainly if and when Kabongo is cleared, it will help. He’s a playmaker, both for himself and his teammates.  Presumably he’ll help eliminate the turnovers -- though committing more might be difficult -- and offer some much-needed direction to a team that appears to be lost in the forest.

Texas coach Rick Barnes said that, during the first television timeout, he asked his team how many turnovers it had. Someone offered two.

“They had seven,’’ Barnes said. “How can you not know that? It’s like you’re not in the game mentally.’’

So, yes, Kabongo can help, but to pin everything on the absence or return of one guy is an excuse that even Barnes is tiring of.

“That doesn’t matter right now,’’ he said. “These guys that we have right now are better, better than they are playing.’’

Stuff happens.

Good teams that become great programs handle it.

Ask Georgetown.