WASHINGTON, D.C. — With basketball season finally here to quiet the rather unusual amount of offseason drama, energy grows by the day on the floor of McDonough Arena. Yet just a year removed from having the 16th-ranked recruiting class in the country, two of Georgetown’s most skilled players have departed, leaving the already young Hoyas with only three sophomores.
Undoubtedly, the two biggest pieces of offseason news were the hiring of former Georgetown assistant coach Natasha Adair as head coach, and Big East Freshman Player of the Year Natalie Butler’s decision to transfer to Connecticut.
Butler’s choice to leave for the back-to-back NCAA champion Huskies may have been Georgetown’s toughest loss of the season. Butler, a 6-foot-5 center, averaged a double-double with 13.3 rebounds and 13.9 points per game and was the only Hoya to start and play in every game last season. As a freshman, she averaged more than 36 minutes of playing time per game and would have provided invaluable leadership to a team without any seniors.
Additionally, 6-foot-2 forward Shayla Cooper transferred to Ohio State after just two games.
The Hoyas do return sophomore guards Jade Martin and co-captain Tyshell King, and sophomore forward Faith Woodard, who all gained valuable minutes last year and contributed from the beginning. Woodard averaged 31 minutes and more than 10 points per game, finishing third on the team in rebounding and second in assists. Martin and King also averaged double-digit minutes per game as freshmen, which will help them develop into key contributors this year.
— Natasha Adair
Although replacing Butler’s size and ability to rebound will not be easy, freshman center Yazmine Belk, a three-star recruit from Nazareth Regional High School in New York, is in prime position to succeed. She averaged 10 rebounds a game in her final year at Nazareth and was lauded by scouts for her ability to get to the rim and finish in traffic. She should fit well into Adair’s philosophy, which emphasizes defense and rebounding.
“We have so many players over 6-feet that we need to be disruptive on the wing and inside, but we also need to be a better rebounding team,” Adair said. “So, those will be two of our biggest focuses: defense and rebounding.”
As the team’s only center, Belk should see early minutes from the outset and begin to make an immediate impact down low and on the glass.
Another new addition that should help compensate for the loss of Butler is the nation’s 60th-best recruit according to ESPN, Dorothy Adomako. At 6-foot-1, Adomako is tall for a wing and a perfect example of the quick, smart players that Adair favors. In addition to her 21.5 points per game during her senior year at Cosby High in Midlothian, Virginia, her ability to rebound and steal the basketball make her a complete player. Adomako, the Big East Preseason Freshman of the Year, averaged nine rebounds and nearly three steals per game, a skill set which will help Georgetown not only replace Butler’s production, but also fix other fundamental problems like a porous defense and turnover-prone offense.
As one of the youngest teams in the country, some early growing pains will only be natural for the Hoyas. However, the long-term benefit of such a young team is the immediate on-court experience that the five-member freshman class will receive.
“On the court, experience is going to be the best teacher, and as coaches, we’re going to have to have patience,” Adair said.
To ensure the beginning of a turnaround this season and as a program, the Hoyas must improve on turnovers. Last season, Georgetown ranked 332nd out of 343 Division I teams in turnovers at 19.8 per game, and it was third from last in turnover margin at -6.91 per game, good for 341st place.
There are positive signs that the turnover situation should improve, but the most notable factor may be the renewed sense of team chemistry. Junior forward Logan Battle has observed an increase in enthusiasm.
“We have a lot more energy than we are used to. It’s a lot different than the last two years,” Battle said.