NBC Sports Washington's coverage of college basketball's March Madness includes profiles of players worth tracking for the 2019 NBA Draft.
The 30,000-foot view of Jessie Govan’s Georgetown career suggests a tantalizing talent.
At the street level, Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing hasn’t always known what to make of the 6-foot-10 center, especially on one end of the court.
It’s conceivable the appropriate plane for the senior comes next.
Govan has the month of March to show the scouts “next” means NBA.
Georgetown (19-12, 9-9) opens Big East Tournament play against Seton Hall in the final game of Thursday’s quadruple-header at Madison Square Garden. It’s odd that a three-seed in one of the top conferences has work remaining to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
That’s the case for the Hoyas, who may need to win three games in New York for the tournament’s automatic bid to join the coveted field of 68.
It’s rare that a first-team All-Big East center from Georgetown isn’t a coveted draft prospect. That’s the reality for Govan, despite ranking top six in the conference in scoring (17.6) and rebounding (7.6). At times his defensive inconsistencies and stretches of passivity offset impressive scoring skills in the eyes of talent evaluators.
Now the symbiotic relationship between the team and its leading man takes center stage during the madness of March.
Georgetown’s lineup includes three members of the Big East’s All-Freshman team. The trio of James Akinjo, Mac McClung and Josh LeBlanc helped spark Georgetown’s first winning season since the 2014-15 campaign. Considering their collective inexperience, the Hoyas need a steady Govan to thrive at MSG and beyond this month.
“We’re going to need [Jessie] to bring his A-game to make a run at the NCAA’s,” Ewing said.
The best version of Govan goes beyond sinking 41.8 percent of his 3-point attempts (43 of 104 this season) and using an array of textbook low-post moves.
A finalist for the 2019 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award as the top center in men’s college basketball, Govan scored a season-high 33 points in a double-overtime win against Providence on Jan. 12 and had at least 20 points 15 times this season.
“Govan is going to being really interesting [in the pros],” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “He’s got great length and is really skilled. Many of the big guys now are going to have to shoot 3s, pass the ball, put it on the floor, and shoot from the mid-range. He’s got it all."
Where Govan struggles is with defensive force and intensity. The lack of bully instincts at times despite a 260-pound frame is what dropped the senior outside of mock drafts after mention earlier in his career.
“Jessie is a lot different than I was. His ability to step out and shoot the three-ball separates us,” said Ewing, who used his classic center skills at Georgetown and during a 17-year NBA career. “He has improved (defensively). He’s trying a lot harder on defense this year compared to last year. He’s rebounding a lot better.”
The New York native floats through some games, especially on those days where shots find everything but the bottom of the net. Govan was particularly clanky during the final home game of his Georgetown career. He missed his initial eight field goal attempts and finished 7 of 21 with six turnovers in another double-OT contest, one the Hoyas couldn’t afford to lose.
Govan made sure they didn’t. He scored all of Georgetown’s 11 points in the final period and finished with 21 in the 77-71 win over Seton Hall.
“To me, that was Jessie’s best game of his career,” Ewing said after the Mar. 2 victory. “His shots weren’t falling … There’s been games in the past where he let that affect him and he stopped playing, and tonight he didn’t. He kept persevering.”
Govan pushed aside the Pirates and in-game struggles to shine brightly late.
“I just wanted to put the game away for my team,” he said. “I had a chance at the end of regulation to win it — missed that shot. I had a chance to extend it to three at the end of overtime — missed one free throw. And then the second overtime, I said, ‘All right, this is where great players make plays.’ ”
There’s no doubting Govan can make the desired plays, the kind that could fill a role in the right professional setting.
“He might fit at the next level better than college," Wright said, "because they like guys with length like that, can protect the rim and still shoot the ball.”
Patrick Ewing likes those kinds of players as well. It would help the Hoyas and Govan’s projections if his game shines throughout March regardless of the viewing angle.
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