Catching up with the Junior Class
At the beginning of last season, Head Coach John Thompson III was clear that he had great confidence in and lofty expectations for the class of 2018.
“I’ve told our sophomores, we need them to perform like seniors, as it relates to production, but more importantly in understanding and caring,” Thompson said at media day in October of 2015. “I’m putting a lot on their shoulders, but I think they can handle it.”
However, the 2015-16 season did not pan out the way Coach Thompson and many other Georgetown fans expected. The then-sophomores, guards L.J. Peak and Tre Campbell and forwards Isaac Copeland and Trey Mourning, played often and played hard throughout the season. As a group, they logged over 2500 minutes on the season and were impact players on both ends of the floor. They played exactly like sophomores should have, but Thompson did not want them to play like sophomores. He needed them to play like seniors.
“They all probably had a normal sophomore year where you’re up and down good and bad. That was unfair of me to expect that. I wanted it really badly, but you know, they didn’t,” Thompson said of his high, and ultimately unrealistic, expectations. “As long as they play like juniors that have improved since sophomore year, we’ll be alright.”
The emphasis on improvement has been a key to this vaunted recruiting class, ranked seventh in nation coming into their freshman years. Their motivation to improve, however, goes beyond just Coach Thompson’s expectations, as Copeland noted that seeing rivals Syracuse and Villanova make deep runs in an NCAA tournament Georgetown was not invited to was huge in fueling their work this offseason.
“We didn’t really think about anyone else but ourselves,” Copeland said when asked about watching last year’s tournament. “We were just thinking about how the guys coming back could make this year different from last year.”
The junior class will have plenty of opportunities to create a difference on this 2016-17 Georgetown squad, starting with its newfound leadership roles amid an influx of new faces up and down the roster.
Over the offseason, the team added guards like Robert Morris, graduate student transfer Rodney Pryor, freshman Jagan Mosely and junior college transfer Jonathan Mulmore, creating a fresh team with a mix of new and old players. These additions now give players like Campbell an opportunity to use the ups and downs of the last two years to fill an essential leadership role.
“I’ve just been trying to be a leader, especially being a junior. I’ve been here for two years now, so I know a lot of things. For me, it’s leading the younger guards,” Campbell said, specifically referencing the mentorship he has provided for Mulmore. “He knows the plays, but not like I do after being here for two years, and I’m showing him everything he needs to know.”
The transfer of forward Paul White to the University of Oregon during this past offseason is another significant change that has pushed the Class of 2018 to accept new challenges. While those changes can be tough, the team is taking it in stride and looking forward to the start of the season.
“It hasn’t affected the chemistry at all,” Copeland said of the transfer. “Of course there’s an adjustment, but we’re all always open to new things. We dealt with Rodney and Jonathan coming in as well as Paul leaving, which I’m really sad about, but he did what he had to do, and I’m happy for him.”
Ultimately, the Hoyas are excited about the changes happening around the team, and they believe that the relationships they have forged through adversity will ground them and allow the junior class to propel the team to success in the upcoming season.
“We were five freshmen. We were really tight from the beginning, and we’ve grown together as a group,” Copeland said. “We’ve seen each other have high moments while others have lows, and we want to make sure we all stick together, no matter what.”
(Cover Photo: Claire Soisson/The Hoya)