Monroe, Hoyas hope to rebound after disappointment
As far as John Thompson III is concerned, no one is exempt from blame for the way Georgetown's basketball team fell apart a year ago. "From the top on down - down to the guy who cleans the gym - we can find a reason how someone, all of us, could have done something different," the coach said. "You go through that process of introspection. You try to adjust, you try to tweak, you try to change." With zero seniors on the roster and sophomore center Greg Monroe expected to be the catalyst, Thompson and his Hoyas head into this season aiming to recover from quite a collapse in 2008-09. Two seasons removed from a Final Four appearance, Georgetown got off to a 10-1 start and was ranked as high as No. 9 in the AP Top 25 poll after beating Connecticut in January. But the Hoyas lost 12 of their final 16 games, including a first-round exit from the National Invitation Tournament, and wound up 16-15. "We went through that. We have to learn lessons from that. The taste is in our mouth. We can't forget that. That has to be a part of growing," Thompson said. "But at the same time, we're not going to harp on it, either." There were plenty of problems that showed up in box scores: Georgetown finished with more turnovers (450) than assists (425) and didn't shoot particularly well on 3-pointers (.332) or any field goals (.469), for that matter. "Everybody kind of struggled shooting, making shots, especially down the stretch," point guard Chris Wright said. Ah, yes. Down the stretch. Six of Georgetown's last seven losses were by six points or fewer. And three came in overtime. Those late-game issues confounded Thompson. "That was new for me. My teams have always been terrific in those segments, when it comes time to win. I take pride in that," he said. "More so than any other time that I've been a coach, when it got to the close games, we didn't make the plays. That's something that is new and different," Thompson added. "We didn't make the plays - offensively, defensively, rebounding. You can go across the board. Every game was a different thing." Leading scorer DaJuan Summers entered the NBA draft after his junior season, so Thompson now will be counting on the 6-foot-11 Monroe to make a difference in tight games. He follows in the school's grand big-man tradition, which extends back to the coaching days of the man known as Pops - John Thompson Jr., the current coach's father - whose players included Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning. Monroe was the only non-senior voted to the Big East Conference's preseason first team; the Hoyas were picked to finish fifth in the league. If Georgetown is going to be relevant once again come tournament time, Monroe might need to be more aggressive than last season, when he ranked second on the team in assists and three starters took more shots per game than he did. "He needs to understand - and I think he's doing a lot better of job of understanding - when to take over games. Because he has the power to take over any game whenever he wants to," Wright said. "So it's just a matter of him knowing, 'When the game is on the line, we need you to score, Big Fella. We don't need you kicking it out."' Monroe was second on the Hoyas in scoring average (12.7 points), led the team in rebounding (6.5) and blocked shots (1.5), and earned Big East rookie of the year honors. While there was talk that he could leave for the pros, Monroe said it was an easy decision to stick around, because he didn't feel he was ready to go to the NBA. "It wasn't my time yet," Monroe said. "A lot of people probably think I could have, but me personally, I thought one more year would be better for me." He - and Thompson - are hoping it will be better for Georgetown, too. "We all know last year was a tough year. Like any other team, we go through our ups and downs. It's crazy to say because we had one bad season, that's the downfall of Georgetown basketball," Wright said. "We had one bad season. We're going to bounce back. And we're going to come this year prepared, ready to play. Last year's over with."