One could argue Georgetown doesn't make the NCAA Tournament last season without center Joshua Smith. The beefy big man largely accounted for all of the Hoyas' interior scoring, made over 62 percent of his field goal attempts and tied for the team lead in rebounds.
Here's another argument: Smith limited Georgetown. The 350-pounder's lack of mobility curtailed fast break opportunities and reduced defensive schemes. Ball movement in coach John Thompson III's motion offense often stalled when reaching Smith inside. Driving lanes didn't exist as defenses kept bodies inside with the senior camped on the low block.
That's all about to change and not just because Smith moved on to the pro ranks.
Consider the presence of freshman center Jessie Govan. Thompson's desired free-flowing offense now has a versatile big man for the first time since Henry Sims in 2012. Adding the 6-foot-10 center to the other pieces on the roster means the idea of interchangeable defenders is back on the menu.
"Jessie allows us -- There has been a large part, both offensively and defensively, things we haven't been able to focus on, take advantage of," Thompson said during a recent interview with CSNmidatlantic.com.
Georgetown is "Big Man U" because of centers Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. Now, don't go thinking Govan, one of three four-star recruits entering the program this season is on the level of those eventual NBA stars. That's not a fair comparison for any young player. What the New York native can do is score inside and away from the basket. He can contribute in true team scenarios.
Govan can simply provide his coach a two-way center, the kind Thompson discussed with the New York Times in 2000 before his first season as Princeton's head coach. Specifically, he mentioned some advice his famous father, Georgetown coaching legend John Thompson Jr., passed down.
''He told me to get a center,'' said Thompson, smiling at the memory. ''Having a center solves more problems than you realize, both in basketball and in life.''
Reminded of this passage, the coach playfully jabbed at the reporter's research -- "You're really bored, huh." -- before discussing Govan.
"Not to say Jessie as a freshman is what Jessie is going to be when he leaves, but he's skilled and yet he's physical. He can go on the block and be very effective just with his sheer size, physicality and skill level," Thompson said. "He can also do the things you want to do at the mid-post and the high-post.
"He's able to help four guys and himself, not just help himself or need four guys to help him. That will make things a lot easier for everyone."
Thompson said Govan could end up starting the regular season opener against Radford on Nov. 14, though he cautioned against overlooking senior Bradley Hayes. The seldom-used center stepped up when Smith and others were in foul trouble during Georgetown's NCAA Tournament opener against Eastern Washington. His active presence sparked a first half rally in the eventual 84-74 win.
"The NCAA Tournament was like an 'ah ha' moment for him," Thompson said of Hayes.
College basketball teams need size and depth at center. Perhaps the Hoyas have just that with Govan and Hayes. It appears they have two active big men including one with sincere upside. Govan can help Thompson utilize much more of his playbook this season. Having that type of center solves more problems than you realize, both in basketball and in life, a wise man once said.