NCAA

George Mason's Copes takes center stage

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George Mason's Copes takes center stage

With frontcourt stalwarts Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison having graduated, George Mason men's basketball program has a sizable interior hole.

Wide-bodied rising sophomore Erik Copes is poised to fill it.

The highest rated college basketball prospect ever to suit up for the Fairfax program, the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Copes flashed his defensive presence credentials throughout his freshman season. Seven blocks in a single half against Drexel comes to mind.

On a team missing three starters from last season's 24-win team, on a team without a senior in the primary rotation, opportunity exists for new focal points to emerge. Outside of wing scorer Sherrod Wright, Copes tops that particular list.

"If he stays healthy, I think he has a chance to be that breakout guy," said George Mason coach Paul Hewitt, referring to both Copes' defensive-presence upside plus the concussion and hip injury that limited the Philadelphia native in stretches last season.

Copes averaged nearly two blocked shots a game despite playing only 15 minutes per contest, a number limited in part because of that upperclassman duo. Offensively, we can charitably deem Copes' skill set as raw; rarely did he score (3.3 points) on anything other than a dunk or putback, tallied only three assists and his free throw percentage was a paltry 41.9 percent.

Physically, Copes showed his conference foes he was ready to go.

"If they hadn't had the two seniors, he would have played even more minutes as a freshman," Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor said of Copes. "He was very impressive physically. He's gifted, nice strength, movement ability. They probably have their eyeballs on him as a sophomore picking up minutes as the interior presence."

No doubt coach Taylor, no doubt - that is, if Copes can stay on the court. Last season he missed six games, five straight midseason, and Mason's CAA Tournament loss against VCU.

"Last year he got off to a really good start," Hewitt said. 'He started playing his best basketball in that game against Drexel when he had seven blocked shots in the first half only to suffer a concussion in the second half and missed five games. He was not quite himself coming back from that concussion and then he when he got it going again he hurt his hip in practice before the CAA Tournament was going to begin."

Copes underwent surgery in May and "so far he's made great recovery, he's back in practice going full tilt," Hewitt said.

Those also tasked with taking on a larger role up front include junior forward Jonathan Arledge, who started twice and played 31 games last season. Redshirt junior Johnny Williams, who played 62 games over his first two seasons, returns to action with a slimmed-down look after sitting out last season with a shoulder injury. Skilled 6-foot-8 Serbian freshman Marko Gujanicic rounds out the likely heart of Hewitt's rotation.

Wright and Vertrail Vaughns are the Patriots top two leading returning scorers while fellow guards Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards direct traffic from the point. Incoming freshman and All-Met Player of the Year Patrick Holloway brings additional scoring pop.

"Everybody has holes to fill; every kid on my team is going to be in a new role," Taylor said. "But, if you look at Mason, they pretty much got things situated. They just need to fill the interior situation."

"When you lose the Player of the Year, that's significant," Hewitt said. "You don't just overlook that. But, its part of what college basketball is all about. Every year there's going to be that exciting new freshman. Fans and people who support your program are looking for that kid who is going to make that jump from his sophomore to his junior year and become a program player.

"Losing Ryan and Mike in particular is going to hurt us. At the same time, I think we've got a core of big guys more than capable of replacing them."

Erik Copes, in particular.

Georgetown gets a boost with Jessie Govan returning to school

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Georgetown gets a boost with Jessie Govan returning to school

After testing the NBA Draft waters, Georgetown center Jessie Govan decided to return to the Hoyas for his senior season.

Govan announced his intention to return on Instagram a week before the final commitment deadline.

Returning to the Hoyas is definitely a boost to the program that will be in their second year under head coach Patrick Ewing.  At 6-10, Govan was the team’s leading scorer (17.9 ppg) and rebounder (10.0 rpg) averaging a double-double last season.

Paired alongside power forward Marcus Derrickson, the Hoyas were nearly unstoppable in the paint. Derrickson though decided to forgo his senior year and signed with an agent after the season.

Had Govan decided to leave that would have meant over 56 percent of the team’s scoring and rebounding would have departed (to graduation or professional pursuits) in a handful of months. Not the best outlook for a 15-win team that went 5-13 in the Big East.

Instead Ewing gets back his leading scorer that many believe he can mold as a young protégée. While in the draft process without an agent Govan had workouts with the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. Both are valuable experiences that he will bring to a relatively young Georgetown squad.

Having Govan for one more year will bridge Ewing’s second season to transfer big-man, Omer Yurtseven to his first year of eligibility in 2019. They were set up to having a walk-on and two sophomores being the only returning Hoyas over 6-6 for the upcoming season.

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Future NBA prospect Omer Yurtseven transfers to Georgetown from NC State

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Future NBA prospect Omer Yurtseven transfers to Georgetown from NC State

The pieces are starting to come together for Patrick Ewing.

On Monday the Georgetown Hoyas picked up perhaps the biggest (literally and figuratively) target of the transfer market, Omer Yurtseven.

From North Carolina State, the transfer from Istanbul Turkey will have two years remaining of eligibility. Due to NCAA transfer rules, he is not allowed to play for the 2018-19 season.

MORE NCAA: TOP BUZZER BEATERS IN NCAA TOURNAMENT HISTORY

Standing at 7-0, the center helped power the Wolfpack to an NCAA tournament bid this past season. Averaging 13.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks a contest, Yurstseven earned All-ACC Third Team honors in the 2017-18 season. He also touted a 58.3 shooting percentage and was not afraid to pull it up from deep either (22 made three-pointers).

NC State lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 8 Seton Hall, but he was limited due to foul trouble with only two points and two rebounds in 14 minutes of play.

Initially, he is the option to fill the void that Jessie Govan will leave, whether that is during this offseason or next. Already the team has lost power forward Marcus Derrickson

Yurtseven will just be another frontcourt talent for Ewing with the Hoyas.

It was widely reported that he was considering playing options, both in the United States and abroad before this announcement. Easily he has the talent to go in first round of the NBA Draft whichever year he declares.

On the same day, the Hoyas also announced the signing of four-star guard James Akinjo.