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Scouting George Washington

Last season, George Washington transformed from a constant to a variable. The Colonials had made three straight trips to the NCAA tournament from 2005-07 and had claimed an Atlantic-10 championship in 2007.

But last year, point guard Travis King went down with a right knee injury and was lost for the entire season. With King out, the Colonials became turover prone (12th in the A-10 in turnovers with 15.0 per game) and unable to create scoring opportunities for each other (13th in the A-10 in assists with 12.3 per game).

As a result, George Washington's scoring output suffered (63.4 points per game; 13th in the A-10) and so did its record. The Colonials finished last season 9-17 overall and 5-11 in conference play. They failed to qualify for the A-10 tournament.

But this year, George Washington has the pieces in place to be a surprise team in the A-10. I spoke with Colonials Coach Karl Hobbs over the phone on Thursday, and he offered up some assessments on the state of his team is heading into Sunday's showdown with Maryland in the BB&T Classic at Verizon Center.

King -- a 6-foot-2, 215-lb. sophomore -- is still on the mend after undergoing offseason surgery on that right knee, but he is averaging 17.5 minutes per game off the bench and is tied for second on the team in assists with 11.

"He's coming along," said Hobbs, who has begun his eighth season at George Washington. "He's not 100 percent, but he is working his way towards that. The quicker he comes around, obviously, the better team we will be."

The Colonials are 3-1 and currently are being led by a freshman point guard and a steady senior forward. George Washington -- much like Maryland -- prefers to push the game's pace to the limit and struggles in the rebounding department.

Freshman guard Tony Taylor (6-foot-1, 180 lbs.) is running the offense while King returns to full health. So far he has proved capable of the task, recording a team-high 13 assists to go along with 9.3 points per game. He also has eight turnovers.

"He's a young guy that's really been coming along, and I like the fact that the thing that he's doing is, well, he's doing two things -- he's taking care of the basketball and then secondly, he's doing a good job of finding people that are open. And that's the thing that we're most pleased about. That was an area of concern for us last year when Travis King got hurt and wasn't able to play all year. We really struggled from that position."

This season, the Colonials are struggling in their frontcourt, despite the solid play they've been receiving so far from senior forward Rob Diggs (6-foot-8, 202 lbs.). Diggs is averaging 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game this season. He also has recorded 11 blocks. Hobbs said he has been pleased with Diggs's production on the boards but would like to see him start scoring a few more points each night.

From a team-wide standpoint, though, rebounding has been a major concern for Hobbs this year. Despite having three big bodies in the post, George Washington holds a -1.0 rebounding margin, which isn't horrible, but is a statistic Hobbs hopes will improve.

Joinging Diggs up front is junior forward Damian Hollis (6-foot-8, 205 lbs.), who is leading the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game. Hollis has gotten off to a much better start this season than he did last year, Hobbs said, but the team needs Hollis to take on a much bigger role on the boards. He is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game. Hobbs said he also would like to see Hollis improve his three-point shooting. While Hollis is hitting 55.6 percent of his shots from the field, he is sinking just 27.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

Senior forward Wynton Witherspoon (6-foot-7, 197 lbs.) also is expected to help the Colonials out on the boards, though he is averaging just 3.3 rebounds per game. Witherspoon, a Virginia Tech transfer, is scoring 6.3 points per game and has dished out 11 assists.

Rounding out George Washington's starting five is 6-foot-6 sophomore guard Xavier Alexander, a defensive specialist who has recorded a team-high seven steals this season. He mostly likely will start Sunday's game matched up against Greivis Vasquez.

Joining King off the bench is senior guard Noel Wilmore, a 6-foot-3, 190-lb. three-point marksman. Wilmore is averaging 12.0 points per game this season and is hitting 48.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

Hobbs said the two critical areas for his team heading into Sunday's game against Maryland are rebounding and free throw shooting. The Colonials have hit just 60.0 percent of their free throws so far, despite heading to the charity stripe 95 times in four games.

In George Washington's lone loss -- an 83-71 decision at Auburn -- it was out-rebounded 37-26. Among the lessons Hobbs said his team learned from that defeat was that it needed to hit more open shots, raise its intensity down the stretch in close games "and, obviously, the rebounding is always an issue for us."

By Steve Yanda  |  December 6, 2008; 2:07 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Thoughts On The Colonials


Coach Hobbs offers a dispassionate analysis of his team. He said nothing about Maryland. Perhaps he didn't have to - the Terp's inconsistency notwithstanding, they are unlikely to put forth the effort necessary to beat a local team not of the ACC. Is a blow-out of the Terps a likely outcome? That may depend on the phase of the moon, the solar wind, and alignments of the stars. My money's on GW, damn it.

Posted by: AncientTerp | December 7, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

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