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TWO CENTERS OF ATTENTION
Alexander Wolff
March 20, 1989
Big East champ Georgetown is doubly blessed in the pivot
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March 20, 1989

Two Centers Of Attention

Big East champ Georgetown is doubly blessed in the pivot

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Now that it looks as if they've finally settled on a cabinet down in George's town, perhaps Mr. Bush can get one of his men to place a call to Moscow, line up the Soviet Union's hoopniks and set the date, because Georgetown is ready. Anyone who saw the Hoyas cut a swath through the Big East tournament last weekend has to be ready to wager Olympic bronze that, in a rematch, coach John Thompson and his point guard, Charles Smith (this time accompanied by the other Hoyas, not some assemblage of mere All-Americas), would make amends for their loss to the Soviets in Seoul.

With tournament MVP Smith at the front and freshman shot-blocking fool Alonzo Mourning at the rear, Georgetown defeated Boston College 82-52, Pittsburgh 85-62 and, finally, Syracuse 88-79. Little Smitty threw in 66 points and handed out 20 assists over the weekend, and Mourning flummoxed Syracuse's main man, Derrick Coleman, in the finale, holding him to two points in 20 minutes before Coleman fouled out.

Another Hoya, 7'2" Dikembe Mutombo from Zaire, proved he isn't too shabby, either. When Mourning left the game against Boston College with two fouls midway through the first half, up jumped first-year-man Mutombo to score 12 points and block a couple of shots to keep the Eagles in check. He added eight points, five rebounds and three blocks against Pitt, and, in the championship game, he logged more first-half minutes than Mourning.

Mutombo started playing the game at 17, so you can head-fake him forever—or at least until the officials whistle you for a three-second violation—and he won't bite. He doesn't have any bad habits, and that's because he doesn't have any habits, period. "I guess it's like when you first got new toys at Christmas, and you're thrilled to have them," says teammate Jaren Jackson. "He's just got to continue looking at the game as a Christmas present."

While spending last season on campus as a redshirt, Mutombo learned, among other things, that a "pick-and-roll" is one thing and a "pig in a roll" another. "Y'all are going to love Mutombo," Thompson promised members of the press early in the season. " Mutombo's going to be good for y'all." For his part, Mutombo can't understand why he should receive any attention. "The day I am good, I think all the newspapers will talk about me," says Mutombo. "But I am not good yet."

The Georgetown locker room has been transformed by Mutombo. Thompson's assistants, who once monitored player interviews menacingly, now stand enchanted, along with the press, listening as Mutombo essays his simple English. He gestures expansively. He repeats things three and four times to make sure everyone understands what he's saying. "Hey, Jean Valjean," called out Hoya assistant Craig Esherick on Saturday night after Mutombo had held forth in both French and English and offered to launch into several more tongues. "Time to go."

Les mis�rables these guys ain't. For a team that supposedly couldn't shoot from afar, Georgetown has made 34% of its three-point attempts and more than 50% of its twos. "We liked the reputation of not being able to shoot," says Thompson. "I knew we were better shooters than people thought."

The shot-blocking, on the other hand, no one ever doubted. Here's how slap-happy these guys are. Mourning's five blocks a game leads the nation, comfortably. Despite averaging only 12 minutes a game, Mutombo has 72 blocks, 11 more than all 30 of Georgetown's opponents have had against the Hoyas. The Georgetown rooting section has established Rejection Row, hanging up a black hand in the stands for every shot returned to sender. Every Hoya has at least one block—except Kayode Vann, who isn't a new four-by-four truck but a practice player who dresses only for home games, and a reserve named Ronny Thompson. Hey, Coach, might have to cut that Thompson kid.

The more pressing dilemma for Ronny's dad lies in how to use his two big men. Both are natural centers, so for most of this season they haven't played together. But that has proved a valuable hedge against Mourning's penchant for drawing fouls.

While Mourning is all powerful grace, Mutombo has a gawky look. Do not, however, make the mistake of laughing at him or at any of the other Hoyas. After Pittsburgh upset Georgetown on Feb. 11, the Panthers relished their victory a bit too conspicuously, and they paid the price on Saturday. "We remembered them laughing," says Mourning. "They celebrated like they'd won the national championship. We don't do that. When we win, we shake your hand and say, 'Good game.' " Meet the new Hoyas, from the playing fields of Eton.

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