There's only one great player at Georgetown, and every member of the defending NCAA champion Hoyas knows it. The "other 11" are there merely to complement Patrick Ewing. The team won't be outstanding unless he is, which makes the odds pretty good that Georgetown will excel. In other words, the Hoyas will go as far this year as Ewing, their peerless senior center, takes them. And that should be all the way to a second straight national championship—something no team has accomplished since UCLA in 1972 and '73—in Lexington, Ky. on April 1.
There's no Akeem Olajuwon or Mel Turpin to challenge Ewing this season. In fact, no rival center comes close. Ewing's preeminence is not all this Georgetown team has going for it, though, despite some personnel losses that would cripple other clubs. One of the missing Hoyas is ferocious forward Michael Graham, who performed three important functions as a freshman last year: emphatic rebounding, more emphatic dunking and keeping the opposition's minds busy with his bulk and his 'bows while Ewing had his way inside. But Graham failed coach John Thompson where Thompson claims it counts most—in the classroom—and is persona non grata for the season.
Graham is a formidable player, but the Hoyas have survived other losses in the past. Gene Smith, last year's defensive stopper at guard, missed the NCAA title game, and the Hoyas still won easily. Point guard Michael Jackson missed a game last January against Syracuse, and the Hoyas still won easily. Georgetown's best defensive lineup included Ewing, Smith, Graham and Fred Brown. Of them, only Ewing is back. Then again, now all the Hoyas can shoot. But how will Georgetown get the ball for its sharpshooters while it retools its defense? "We'd better get rebounds," says Thompson.
To help in that regard, Thompson recruited 6'8" power forward Ronnie Highsmith out of the U.S. Army. High-smith is either 23, 24 or 25—"We don't do ages," says sports information director Bill Shapland. At Fort Hoya, Sergeant Highsmith will inherit Graham's duty—freeing up Ewing to be Ewing. "Ronnie and all the freshmen are extremely mature, as much as any group I've had," says Thompson. That rookie aggregation also includes 6'11" Grady Mateen, the 1983-84 Ohio coaches' Player of the Year and Ewing's heir apparent.
Guards Smith and Brown were exceptional players for four seasons. Now Jackson and Horace Broadnax—both 6'1"—step in as two of the finest shooters ever to pull up for the Hoyas. You think you can beat Georgetown with tall guards? Thompson will swing the highly versatile frontcourt pair of 6'5" David Wingate and 6'7" Reggie Williams to the backcourt. You think you can outrun the Hoyas? Here comes the quick team: Ewing with Wingate and Williams up front—or maybe 6'7" senior Bill Martin, who outjumps everyone but Ewing—and Jackson and Broadnax in the backcourt.
Ewing, with 358 career blocks, is the finest defensive player in college, and everything begins from there. "If I get the ball to Patrick and he can dunk it with his ear or something, great," says Jackson. "But Patrick gets his defensive inspiration from Coach, and we get it from Patrick. We practice against him. We're very happy to see game day." With Ewing backing up their overplays, the other Hoyas can apply their considerable skills to such tasks as stealing the ball, blocking shots, applying cool presses and hot presses and generally showing off fancy defensive footwork all over the floor for 40 minutes of every game.
"Defense is there every night," says the ultraquick Wingate, who had 50 steals last year. "And so is Patrick." The Hoyas held opponents to 39.7% shooting during the regular season and 38.1% in the NCAAs. With Ewing, there are no uncontested shots against Georgetown.
The question is not who might win the NCAA this season. Many teams might. But only one should. Georgetown.