Monday, February 11, 2013
How far will Porter lead Georgetown?
By Dana O'Neil
Behind Otto Porter's strong play the Hoyas have lost only once in their past nine games.
WASHINGTON D.C. -- The play, done with authority and even a bit of panache, was so pretty, so well executed that even the usually stoic Markel Starks couldn't help himself.
He just had to dance.
"I’m not saying I’m a guy who plays on emotion, but it’s kind of like dancing," Starks said. "Sometime you just get into it."
This, then, is what Otto Porter can do -- he can inspire an on-court wallflower to jig.
The bigger question: What can Porter do for Georgetown?
With their 63-55 win over Marquette on Monday night, the Hoyas have now won six in a row and eight of their past nine -- the lone hiccup an inexplicably out-of-place loss to South Florida -- and stand a half-game behind Big East-leading Syracuse.
In theory and on paper, the Orange and Louisville are still the favorites to win this league.
But if you’ve been paying even a little attention this season, you know theories written on paper tend to fly out the window without much of a breeze.
So in a wide-open season and a fairly close league, are the Hoyas a team waiting in the Big East weeds?
Perhaps. It’s really up to Porter.
Georgetown is not going to overwhelm anyone with its offense. In Big East play, the Hoyas have topped the 70-point threshold twice -- against Seton Hall and Providence, and that probably shouldn’t really count.
Georgetown is built on its defense, which is more suffocating than swarming. The Hoyas forced 19 turnovers against Marquette, but as many were unforced yips as coerced errors. Truth be told this wasn’t their finest effort. They allowed the Golden Eagles to shoot 43 percent for the game, well above the 36 percent they typically give up.
"We have to tighten some things up a little bit," John Thompson III said.
Even if Georgetown ratchets up tension, and even in this offensively offensive season, teams do still have to score a few buckets to win games.
That's where Porter comes in.
He doesn’t have a nickname. His game is more methodical and surgical than reckless or Russdiculous. He ranks as his team’s leading scorer, but not by an overwhelming fashion -- 15.2 points per game to Starks' 12.3.
His numbers are staggeringly consistent if not wildly overwhelming. He shoots 51 percent from the floor, he’s scored double figures in all but two full games this season (he left early against Duquesne with a concussion).
He’s unfailingly polite, if a slightly boring quote (although there’s a very good chance Thompson offers clinics on that). He might not win Big East Player of the Year, yet he might very well be the best player in the Big East.
Yet because he lacks flair and because his game is more reliable than flashy, he flies under the radar nationally and even in his own conference.
“Why? Because you guys don’t talk about him," Thompson said. “He’s one of the best players in the country and he’s consistently shown that. He takes pride in and excels at every aspect of the game. He’s not just thinking about my touches or my shots, and all of it is under the umbrella of how to put the team in the best position to win.
“Winning is important to him and because winning is important, he understands that getting that deflection is important. He understands that communication on defense is important and that going after rebounds is important."
For Georgetown to become more than a Big East threat or March tease, Porter has to be all that and more. The little things always matter, but the big ones do, too.
It’s not that he needs to single-handedly carry the Hoyas -- Starks is good enough to share a good deal of the load -- but the Hoyas have a slim margin for error and an even thinner bench. Without Greg Whittington, they essentially go six deep.
So it’s up to Porter to be the guy, even if he doesn’t necessarily care if he is the guy.
Asked if he was offended that people didn’t talk about him much, he smiled and said, "No. Not at all."
Which is fine. People don’t need to talk about him.
Porter just needs to play so well he makes them want to dance.