It could easily have been so different.
Sophomore center Jessie Govan arrived on the Hilltop last year as a prized recruit, touted as a future NBA prospect and a big part of John Thompson III’s plans in the post.
Senior center Bradley Hayes, on the other hand, was a seven-footer coming into his fourth year with the Hoyas, hoping to finally establish himself as a key member of the team. The two were on a crash course with each other, set to compete for the starting spot and the lion’s share of the minutes at center.
Although all the signs pointed to a potential rivalry, Govan and Hayes have become close friends over the past year.
Their friendship began to form the day that Govan set foot on campus. According to the 6-foot-10 sophomore from New York, Hayes treated him with respect from day one and a friendship blossomed both on and off the court.
“He’s been nothing but great ever since I got here,” Govan said of Hayes. “He really took me under his wing last year when I came in, made sure I was ready as a freshman. We have a really good relationship — we laugh a lot off the court, we hang out a lot. He’s a real good guy, on and off the court.”
On the court is where Hayes makes his most significant impact on Govan.
“It’s big. He’s experienced, he’s been in the offense. This is his fifth year now, so he’s like a big brother to all of us. He’s one of the leaders on our team, we really look up to him,” Govan said, referencing the impact of Hayes returning for one more season.
“His mindset already is pretty grounded so there wasn’t too much I needed to teach him,” Hayes said. “I just try to show him as much as I can and teach him what I know.”
Those leadership qualities have not gone unnoticed by Thompson, either. After serving as one of the team’s captains last season, Thompson named Hayes the sole captain of this year’s squad and will be looking for even more leadership from him during this campaign.
Adding to Hayes’ already positive attitude and healthily competitive nature, he also enjoys the in-practice battles for playing time.
“It’s fun. We are all competitive people. When we step on the court we’re battling each other every day, but next thing off the court we’re laughing and joking around like best friends. It’s fun,” Hayes said.
On the topic of leadership, Hayes declined to take credit for much of anything, citing his drive to be a better teammate to his ability to lead.
“I come from all aspects of the game. Coming in my freshman year, I didn’t get any playing time,” Hayes said. “I’m just trying to help my teammates now that they are in a position that I was in.”
An illustration of the bond shared between the two centers is their collective attitude toward playing time. With Hayes set for a four-game spell on the sidelines to begin the season due to NCAA eligibility rules, Govan looks at the period as an opportunity to help his team gain early season success.
“I got to go out there and help my team, do everything I can to make sure we get every victory that we can. If that takes me playing five minutes or 35 minutes, I’m just going to do whatever it takes to get the win,” Govan said.
Govan’s selflessness has become a rarity in modern basketball, especially with so much riding on this season for the Hoyas, and even more especially so with Govan ranked No. 31 as an NBA prospect, according to DraftExpress.
His willingness to share the spotlight and make personal concessions for team success exemplifies the uncommon bond shared by Govan and Hayes, a brotherhood of big men looking to restore Georgetown to its former place atop the Big East.
(Cover photo: Dan Kreytak/The Hoya)