By Deron Snyder
On Monday afternoon, Coach Patrick Ewing announced that Louis Orr, Robert Kirby and Akbar Waheed would form his men’s basketball staff at Georgetown.
Monday evening, Baltimore-area forward Jalen Smith announced his commitment to Maryland, giving coach Mark Turgeon a second four-star recruit this month.
There’s no connection between the events. But one school introducing assistants while the other lands a Top 30 player illustrates the figurative distance between rivals less than 15 miles apart.
Orr, Kirby and Waheed apparently began assisting Ewing shortly after the Hoya legend got the gig. Unfortunately for fans, the head start has yet to bear fruit. The key arrival thus far is Trey Dickerson, a 6-1 graduate transfer who averaged 10.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season at South Dakota.
According to 247 Sports, Georgetown’s recruiting class is 75th in the nation and ninth in the Big East. Forget about Top 100 players; the Hoyas don’t have a recruit ranked in the Top 200. Next season could be the Hilltop’s bleakest since a 3-23 campaign 45 years ago. The season after looks just as promising.
This isn’t an ideal situation for any coach, let alone Ewing, who has impeccable basketball knowledge but zero experience in the college game. Expecting a swift turnaround from a rookie after the program’s back-to-back losing season is unfair and unrealistic.
But it might be the Hoyas’ only chance to remain relevant. Otherwise, Georgetown could become an out-of-the-picture second to Maryland in the DMV, like IUPUI is to Butler when prep players consider schools in Indianapolis.
Turgeon’s ability to coach might be a question for critics, but there’s no doubting his skill as a recruiter.
Since arriving in College Park, he nearly stole the Harrison twins from Kentucky’s John Calipari and successfully snatched the nation’s No. 6 recruit (Diamond Stone) from Wisconsin’s backyard. His first class, in 2012, was ranked 13th in the country; predecessor Gary Williams failed to crack the Top 30 in his last five seasons.
Maryland’s recent classes have enjoyed national rankings of 11th (2014) and 13th (2016). The 2018 class, featuring Smith and four-star North Carolina forward Aaron Wiggins, currently is ranked No. 7.
Transfers and a sense of under-achievement have lowered his overall grade, but Turgeon excels at the first rule for a winning coach: Get good players. Do it often enough over several years, and your school becomes a perennial contender for the most-talented hoopsters in the region and nationally.
On the flip side, your school becomes less than an afterthought when losses mount and big-time signees decline.
That’s the danger Ewing faces at Georgetown. His task isn’t impossible, but he has a lot to learn and a lot of ground to make up.
Turgeon is far ahead and lengthening the lead.