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WASHINGTON – Georgetown senior center Joshua Smith spent his summer working in a department store's shoe section.
"Selling boots and heels to older women," Smith said with a chuckle, "so I was kind of messing up the sizes and getting the wrong brands."
More importantly to Hoyas coach John Thompson III, the 6-foot-10 Smith — who missed more than half of last season for academic reasons — also made a concerted effort while back home in Washington state during the offseason to get into better shape. Smith said he's down to "about 340" pounds, after being "high 360s, low 370s" a year ago.
"Trying to wake up every day and say, 'OK, let me go to gym at least once' or 'let me go to the gym twice,'" Smith said.
As for classwork, Smith said: "I felt embarrassed. ... I'm not going let these guys down again."
So far, so good for the transfer from UCLA.
"As of now, he's on-point with everything on the floor, as well as in the classroom," Thompson said. "But I said the same thing at this point last year."
If Smith's conditioning and grades are up to par, Georgetown will set its sights on getting back to the NCAA tournament after last season's 18-15 record and NIT trip a season ago.
"He put in a lot of work — to work on his body, work on his second effort, his energy. You can see that in practice," 6-9 forward Mikael Hopkins said. "His presence demands two people to attend to him, so that means people are going to get open shots. People are going to get driving lanes to the basket. When it's time to feed the post, it's easier to throw the ball down to him, because most of the time, he's going to bury his defender."
Here are other things to know about Georgetown for the upcoming season, which the Hoyas open Nov. 15 against St. Francis:
MOTHER KNOWS BEST: The on-court leader of the team is D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a junior guard from Indianapolis who found out he was the Big East's preseason player of the year via a phone call from his mother, Kelana Rivera. How did she know before he did? "Twitter talks. Twitters gets the word first," Smith-Rivera said. "My mom, she's a basketball junkie." As for whatever expectations might come along with the preseason honor? "Hopefully they're saying the same thing at the end of the season," he said.
DEFENSE: Georgetown's opponents made 33.3 percent of 3-point tries last season; in an NIT loss to Florida State, the Hoyas allowed more than 100 points in regulation for the first time since 2000-01. "Our defense," Thompson acknowledges, "was not good." He put extra emphasis on that end this offseason, Hopkins said: "I guess guys just didn't buy into the defensive principles. Everybody was ready to get back down on offense as quick as possible. But this year ... we're going to try to turn up the intensity."
FRESHMEN: Thompson hopes to get real contributions from a strong recruiting class that includes L.J. Peak, Paul White, Isaac Copeland, Tre Campbell and Trey Mourning (yes, Alonzo's son). "They don't just play basketball," Thompson said. "They're basketball players. And so because of that, they pick up stuff fast."
GIVING UP: Georgetown had all manner of "speed bumps," as Smith put it, in 2013-14, including his departure after 13 games; Greg Whittington's own academic problems and knee surgery; Jabril Trawick's broken jaw. "A lot of things that don't usually happen in a program," Trawick said. "Coming in this year, we've just got a fresh start." Maybe that will mean avoiding what senior forward Aaron Bowen said was a problem last season: "When we got down, we just gave up."
BIG EAST: Georgetown was picked to finish second behind Villanova in the preseason conference coaches' poll. It's Year 2 for the 10-team offshoot of the old Big East; the new version is seeking the respect and recognition its predecessor earned. "We always will be compared against our past," Thompson said. "We've gone from unquestionably the best basketball conference to where we're in the discussion." Still, there's clearly nostalgia for the old league: Georgetown will renew rivalries with former conference foes UConn and Syracuse in coming seasons.
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