Hoyas Waiting for a Leader to Emerge

BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

It is just the beginning of the 1989-90 college basketball season, but at Georgetown things are eerily the same.

The Hoyas are on everyone's top 5 list. They are a preseason pick to reach the Final Four in Denver. And, as usual, they'll be looking for someone to fill the leadership role.

It is a question that seems to come up every season. When Sleepy Floyd left, the question was, who could replace him? The answer then was Patrick Ewing. When Ewing left, it was Reggie Williams.

When Williams left, it was Perry McDonald, with guard Charles Smith taking over last season and leading the Hoyas to a 29-5 season that ended with a loss to Duke in the East Regional final.

Now Smith is gone and the question is back.

"Who would have predicted Smitty would be the one to step up?" said Georgetown Coach John Thompson. "No one. No one even predicted he'd be All-Big East and then he turns out to be the league's MVP."

Thompson said he doesn't know who will step up to the responsibility. But he isn't worried.

"Someone always does," he said. "But I'm not certain who it will be. I expect leadership to come from our seniors."

He said seniors Dwayne Bryant and Mark Tillmon will be counted on for a lot of leadership, as will forwards Anthony Allen and Sam Jefferson.

"Losing Smitty is a tremendous loss," said Allen. "He and Jarren Jackson were here when we got here. They taught us what Georgetown is."

Georgetown, explained Allen, is "hard work, dedication and success."

Bryant, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, sees Smith's absence as an opportunity. But not just for the seniors.

"We're going to be more team-oriented," Bryant said. "I don't think there will be one person scoring 30 points every night. This year, the scoring is going to have to come from a lot of different people. We're all going to have to contribute in our own way, as far as rebounds, assists and points."

But Bryant adds he does feel some pressure to take over the leadership role.

"Coach hasn't placed that on me," he said. "He hasn't said that's what he expects of me. But I expect that of myself, because of the fact Charles is gone. I think I'm going to have to do a lot more scoring and a lot of other things, as far as leadership roles go."

Thompson expects Bryant and Tillmon to start at guard. He sees his two big men, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo, in the starting lineup -- together, with regularity. Which is extremely bad news for the rest of the Big East.

"I've practiced with the two of them in there at the same time," said Allen, 6-7. "And believe me, it's an awesome sight. If they can get their skills to complement each other, they'll be incredible."

The small forward spot remains unclear. The Hoyas traditionally use a three-guard alignment, and although that might change this season, it might not, given the addition of 6-6 forward Michael Tate, who Thompson believes can play at guard.

Tate initially signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Maryland, but when Bob Wade was forced out as coach, Tate was able to get out of his commitment and signed with Georgetown.

"One of the things I'm hoping Michael will bring to that small forward spot is a person who is able to rebound, a person who is able to hit the shot outside.

"He's very important to us," Thompson added. "Particularly, because I think he can play some guard. But he's got to determine where he's going to play, by playing in practice. His shooting is particularly important, because a lot of teams will collapse on Alonzo, collapse on Mutombo. We'll see a lot of zones, a lot of doubling-down, a lot of traps. So the people who can make the outside shots will get more playing time."

Thompson said Tate was showing no lingering aftereffects from off-season knee surgery.

"He was involved in the drills yesterday (Monday) and he looked great," Thompson said.

Still, the biggest problem for Georgetown's opponents is the twin towers, the 6-10 Mourning and the 7-2 Mutombo.

"I'm going to attempt to play them both at the same time," Thompson said. "Because of their size, people will always have great expectations. But I realize they're both just sophomores. And a lot of times when you're sophomores, you know just enough to not know what you're supposed to do.

"But Alonzo has always worked hard and Dikembe has always worked hard. I think Dikembe is going to have to play a more significant role. I am going to attempt to play them a lot more together. If that works out, that's fine."

If it works, the Hoyas will be playing more zone defense, a change from the ball-hawking, pressing style that has been the Hoyas' trademark.

Well, maybe some things do change. A little.

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