Georgetown Has an Impenetrable Wall With Mourning, Mutombo
The great ones seem to have simple identification tags. One name usually does it. Say Patrick, Moses, Ralph or Magic, and people know whom you are talking about.
Add Alonzo to that list. Alonzo Mourning, Georgetown’s freshman center, is achieving first-name recognition only 19 games into his collegiate career in the Big East Conference. He is blocking shots, powering his way to the basket, grabbing rebounds and somehow living up to the expectations that were slapped on him before the season.
Being compared with Patrick Ewing, Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson and David Robinson isn’t easy. Mourning says he doesn’t want to be those people; he just wants to be Alonzo. And, he says, he isn’t some super hero out of a comic book.
“The season has been tough for me because of the reputation I have,” said Mourning, who is averaging 12.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.6 blocked shots. “I have to prove a lot of things. But I’ve got to go out and keep my composure. I’m still a freshman. I’m going to make mistakes.
“All the newspapers and magazines in the preseason created high expectations. As soon as I hit the floor, I was supposed to be Superman.”
Already someone is tugging on Superman’s cape. As good as Mourning is, there is another big man on the Georgetown team who is going to get his share of attention and hype over the next few seasons. Dikembe Mutombo, a 7-foot-2 (maybe 7-3) sophomore from Kinshasa, Zaire, is the biggest surprise in college basketball since Manute Bol.
Two weeks ago, Mutombo set a school and Big East Conference record by blocking 12 shots against St. John’s. The Georgetown record Mutombo broke had been set earlier this season when Mourning blocked 11 shots against St. Leo.
“One day I think I can get the (NCAA) record (for blocks),” Mutombo said, “when coach gives me the opportunity to play.”
The Alonzo-Mutombo Show is already taking shape in Coach John Thompson’s mind.
“Eventually, they’re going to have to play a lot together,” Thompson said Tuesday. “I play them together sometimes. A lot of it depends on what kind of defense we want to play or what the foul situation is like. Usually I substitute Mutombo for Alonzo. But sometimes when I come back with Alonzo, I’ll put him in at power forward in preparation for the future.
“Both of them are capable of blocking shots pretty well. They present a good wall, you know. They’re tall.”
It’s a wall, all right. A tall wall with long arms and big hands that send shots back in the direction of the unfortunate shooter. A wall that has otherwise fearless big men dancing the pump-fake shuffle in the lane. They can fake all day. They still get their shots blocked.
“They are awesome,” Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun said of Mourning and Mutombo.
Mourning leads the nation with 107 blocked shots in 19 games. He has a shot at breaking the NCAA single-season record of 207 blocks, set by Navy’s Robinson in the 1985-86 season. At Georgetown home games in the Capital Centre, Mourning’s cheering section is known as “Rejection Row.” Those fans post “hand cards” the way Fenway Park fans hang K’s when Roger Clemens pitches.
“He’s like the black hole in there,” Calhoun said. “Everything that goes inside against him disappears. Even players disappear against him.”
In Mourning’s third game, the 6-10 freshman had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks against St. Leo. That made Mourning, who is wearing No. 33, as Ewing did, the first Georgetown player to record a triple-double under Thompson. Even Ewing didn’t manage that.
“I said last year that if I was the owner of one of the seven teams in the NBA lottery, I would’ve gotten Mourning out of high school last spring,” said Pittsburgh Coach Paul Evans, who was Robinson’s coach at Navy. “Two years down the road, he’ll be better than the guys who went in the lottery last year.”
Mutombo, who blocked a shot with his elbow earlier this season, has his sights set on Robinson’s single-game record of 15 blocked shots. Mutombo, who sat out last season while trying to increase his familiarity with the English language, has 46 blocked shots in 225 minutes. By comparison, Cliff Robinson, UConn’s leader in blocked shots, has 31 in 565 minutes.
As a team, Georgetown has blocked 202 shots, an average of 10.6 a game. The Hoyas should crush the team record of 233 set by Robinson and Navy in 1985-86, when the Midshipmen averaged 6.7 blocks a game.
“I knew he had the talent all along,” Mourning said of Mutombo. “I’ve seen it in practice. He blocks my shot in practice.”
While Mourning was the top high school recruit in the country last year, Mutombo came to Coach John Thompson by chance.
“A gentleman from a government agency here in Washington walked in and told us about him,” Thompson said. “I guess the guy had sent a note, but you get a lot of notes. You get pictures from overseas that are very deceptive. If the kid stands back away from the basket and holds the ball up and you take a picture of him, it looks like he’s taller than he is. We get a lot of those.
“But we were having summer league at the time. And I showed the guy (7-foot) Ben Gillery, who was out on the floor. And I asked him if (Mutombo) was as tall as Ben Gillery. And he said, ‘Taller.’ Right away, my interest level changed.”
Thompson thinks Mutombo has a chance to be as good as Mourning some day. From the beginning, Thompson said he’d be surprised if Mutombo was not an NBA lottery pick some day.
“I think, potentially, he’s going to be an outstanding player,” Thompson said, “particularly after he gets through this year and finds out what it’s like. His biggest asset is that he runs the floor so well. He gets out, fills the lane and can move up and down the floor. He’s instinctively a runner.”
Before the season started, everyone talked about how good Georgetown would be in the future. The future seems to have arrived early.