Team preview: George Washington
Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2006-07 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)
Whenever George Washington coach Karl Hobbs retires, he'll have a career as a television analyst. Ask Hobbs to assess this year's Atlantic 10 Conference and he has something specific to say about almost every team, and it's all positive: UMass has the most talented lineup; Xavier has good point-guard play, and so does Saint Louis; Temple has a new coach in Fran Dunphy, who inherited good athletes; Richmond has a unique system, which makes it difficult to prepare for; La Salle doesn't have A-10 Player-of-the-Year Steve Smith, but that could work to its advantage as the Explorers will be forced to spread the wealth; St. Bonaventure has confidence.
And what about his team? Well, the reigning conference coach of the year isn't about to pick the Colonials to win the A-10. Not after losing four starters off a team that went undefeated in the conference and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But he isn't picking them last either.
"Last year I would have told you we should win the league," Hobbs said. "This year we'll go through some growing pains. But I'll tell you one thing: we'll be very, very competitive."
Give Hobbs credit for remaining optimistic after losing two all-conference first-team selections in Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Danilo "J.R." Pinnock, a second-teamer in Mike Hall and the team MVP in Omar Williams. Mensah-Bonsu, Hall and Williams came in together as freshmen, and by their senior years were the backbone of a team that lost only five A-10 games in two years. Pinnock, a junior, led the team in scoring and steals, was second in assists and third in rebounds, and showed enough talent to go in the second round of the NBA draft.
But it's not all bad news.
Senior Carl Elliot (11.5 ppg, 3.9 apg), a 6-4 point guard, mercifully withdrew his name from the NBA draft after working out for a pair of teams. Although Elliot isn't a household name like Mensah-Bonsuh became, Hobbs considers him one of the best point guards in the country and believes this will be his year to shine.
"He's received some attention and notoriety, but this year he'll bust out," Hobbs said.
Elliot, who has started 89 out of 90 games in his Colonials career, has always been known as a tenacious defender. He did not disappoint last year, making his second straight A-10 All-Defensive team. But it was his shooting that stood out. Never much of a shooter, he led the team in three-point percentage (.438, 49-for-112). His percentage would have been good for second in the conference, but he didn't have enough made three-point goals to qualify.
"I think it all starts with his perimeter shooting," Hobbs said. "It's improved greatly from past years to this past year. He needs to continue to do that and become more of a focal point from an offensive standpoint, become more of a scorer for us."
Elliot will be joined by 6-1 junior guard Maureece Rice (12.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg), the reigning A-10 Sixth Man of the Year. Despite coming off the bench, Rice was the team's second leading scorer last year. In an age when college athletes transfer if they don't receive the playing time they think they deserve, Hobbs thinks Rice should be given credit for waiting his turn for two years.
"I think his time has come," Hobbs said. "He's done something a lot of kids don't do, which is be patient, and I'm happy for him.
"I would imagine it was hard for him, but he was patient and now he has the opportunity."
In Elliot and Rice, the Colonials have one of the top backcourts in the A-10.
"They play a tremendous amount of minutes together," Hobbs said. "That's the position where we have a very strong backbone."
That's probably the only position where GW will have a backbone. Of the potential starters at the other three positions, two players didn't play last year because they either red-shirted or had to sit out after transferring. The other two played a combined 21 minutes per game.
"Last year we knew we were going to be good because we had a proven track record," Hobbs said. "This year we have some unknowns."
No player epitomizes that better than 6-9 senior forward Dokun Akingbade. Akingbade, who joined the team as a walk-on before earning a scholarship, red-shirted last year because of the log-jam at forward and has never played more than seven minutes per game in any of his three seasons. Nonetheless, he'll be thrust into a major role.
"He'll play 20, 25 minutes for us," Hobbs said. "He'll have an impact, because he can run and block shots."
The most well known of the unknowns is 6-8 senior Regis Koundjia (4.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg), a transfer from LSU. Koundjia was ineligible for the first eight games of the season, but once he joined the team he provided depth in the post.
Two sophomores who will see plenty of playing time are 6-8 forward Rob Diggs (1.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg) and 6-5 forward Cheyenne Moore. Of the two, Moore is perhaps the most intriguing. The Baltimore native started 17 games as a freshman at Clemson, averaging 19.5 minutes and 6.6 points, but decided to transfer the summer after his freshman year. He originally committed to Georgetown as a junior.
Moore is an athletic player known for his dunking ability and defense. He'll help replace the production of Pinnock.
"We're expecting big things from him," Hobbs said.
Hobbs said that Diggs is the "typical GW guy; long, lean, athletic, a little underweight (187 pounds) for what he does. But one thing this program does is develop its talent."