What is Patrick Ewing's Plan?
After suffering two losses in the Wooden Legacy tournament, the Hoyas head back east with more questions than answers. So what comes next?
Patrick Ewing talked a lot about patience heading into this season. He also talked about using this non-conference slate of games to get his team ready for what now looks to be like a bruiser of a Big East schedule this winter.
Patience is fine. We can all work to be more patient. A young team like this deserves patience.
But if these last two games were Ewing’s way of getting his whole team— especially his younger players— ready for Big East play, he sure has a curious way of doing it.
The minutes for freshman guards Jordan Riley and Tyler Beard during this road trip were particularly curious.
Beard, who has been the team’s backup point guard to start the season, only played four minutes against San Diego State, and five minutes against St. Joseph’s, including just one minute in the second half.
Riley, the underrated guard from Long Island whose athleticism and defense has stood out early on in the season, played just nine minutes against San Diego State (only one minute in the second half), and only three minutes total against St. Joe’s.
Beard and Riley have seen their minutes steadily decrease in the last four games, but it’s not just those two freshmen who are seeing their playing time decrease.
Jalin Billingsley, who came into the season as perhaps the player with the most hype coming out of summer practices, has seen his minutes go down since the game against American, where he played 27 minutes. Since then his minutes in the next three games have been: 15 (Siena), 12 (SDSU), 12 (SJU). Billingsley did not see the floor in the second half against the Hawks.
How are these players supposed to get ready for Big East play if they aren’t even trusted to play against a team like St. Joe’s, who was ranked #237 in KenPom coming into their matchup against Georgetown?
It would be one thing if Coach Ewing wanted to ride with his older players and try to focus on winning instead of long-term development, but the whole “win games” thing didn’t quite work out either during the Hoyas’ trip out west.
In the second half against St. Joe’s, Ewing played his starters nearly the entire second half, as Georgetown tried to come back from a 10-point halftime deficit. The only other players who saw the floor in the second half were Collin Holloway for six minutes and Tyler Beard for two minutes. Leaning on the vets didn’t work, as the Hoyas still fell to an inferior St. Joe’s team.
Now to be fair, the freshmen outside of Aminu Mohammed haven’t exactly set the world on fire to begin the season. There is some level of justification to their minutes being reduced, in a vacuum. But this Georgetown roster is so young that this team is going to need each of them to play a role at some point this season.
How does Ewing expect them to assimilate to the college game and learn from their mistakes if he is already limiting opportunities during the point of the season that he himself said would be used to get his young team ready for conference play?
Ewing was vocal in the limited amount of times we got to speak to him in the preseason about giving his freshmen some slack and being OK with them making some mistakes so that they could grow.
So far, the only freshman who seems to be getting that slack is Aminu Mohammed, who has been very good overall for Georgetown but has had a couple of duds already, like Friday night when he shot 0-for-10 from the field against St. Joe’s, scoring only six points.
It would be one thing if Ewing were riding players like Don Carey and Kaiden Rice and getting wins. But if Georgetown is going to lose to teams like Dartmouth and St. Joe’s, while also not giving minutes to the younger players so that they can get game reps to help them develop into key pieces in the rotation later on, how does that move this program forward in the right direction this year and in the years to come?
Maybe this season goes like last year and players like Dante Harris, Carey, Rice, Tim Ighoefe, and maybe even Collin Holloway lead Georgetown to a Big East Tournament title. But you can’t expect to jerk around younger players’ minutes like this and expect them to want to stay with the program.
Some of that is on the players, like Riley and Beard, who have to execute better, but some of that is on the head coach too to give them the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow into players that can be trusted as time goes on and the stakes get higher during conference play.
The only thing that matters this season is keeping the core pieces on this roster together heading into next season. It’s on Patrick Ewing to balance winning with long-term development of his players. Right now, there is not much winning going on, and development of the roster does not seem to be top of mind. It’s on Ewing to strike a better balance, or he risks more players choosing to leave his program in the offseason.
There’s still time this season to right the ship, but there needs to be a better plan in place when it comes to giving these young players more opportunity to learn and grow on the court. Otherwise, this summer is going to look a lot like the other summers have looked under Patrick Ewing, and it’ll be right back to Square One.