NBA Draft: Jessie Govan's next level needed for Georgetown's postseason hopes

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NBA Draft: Jessie Govan's next level needed for Georgetown's postseason hopes

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.


Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

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Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- D.J. Funderburk scored 14 points before fouling out and North Carolina State overcame a second-half scoring drought of more than 10 minutes in a 53-51 victory against Virginia on Monday night.

C.J. Bryce added 13 points for the Wolfpack (14-5, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), including a jumper with 27 seconds left after allowing the shot clock to race to near 0:00. The victory ended an eight-game losing streak against the Cavaliers.

Viginia (12-6, 4-4) used a 15-0 run during the N.C. State scoring drought that lasted 10:13 to take a 46-42 lead, bringing the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena back into the game. But Jericole Hellems hit a 3-pointer for N.C. State with 3:38 left and, after a free throw by Mamadi Diakite for Virginia, Markell Johnson hit a 3-pointer and then Hellems' putback gave the Wolfpack a 50-47 lead.

Johnson and Bryce both missed the front end of one-and-one free throw opportunities, and Kihei Clark hit a pair for Virginia. Braxton Beverly made the first and missed the second for the Wolfpack with 7.2 seconds left, and the Cavaliers Casey Morsell was short on a contested 3 at the buzzer.

Clark led Virginia with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The Wolfpack had used an 8-0 run to go ahead 42-31. Virginia helped out by going scoreless for more than 6 1/2 minutes. Francisco Caffaro, who had just been inserted into the game, ended the drought with 11:13 left.


N.C. State: The Wolfpack seemed on their way to a solid victory until the drought, during which they were 1 for 8 from the field with five turnovers and repeatedly let the shot clock run down into single digits, forcing bad shots.

Virginia: In the Cavaliers' continuing search for scoring help, freshman Casey Morsell had as many as three field goals for the first time since a 65-56 victory against Navy on Dec. 29. He was 4 for 20 from the field in his last five games. He finished the night 4 for 9 and his buzzer-beater attempt was closely guarded.


The Wolfpack remains on the road and plays at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Cavaliers go on the road and play at Wake Forest on Sunday.

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Virginia snaps 3-game losing streak with 63-58 win over Georgia Tech

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Virginia snaps 3-game losing streak with 63-58 win over Georgia Tech

ATLANTA (AP) -- Jay Huff and Mamadi Diakite scored 17 points apiece as defending national champion Virginia snapped a three-game losing streak with a 63-58 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday night.

The Cavaliers (12-5, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) finally regained their winning touch after dropping out of The Associated Press ranking for the first time since November 2017.

Georgia Tech (8-10, 3-5) lost its fourth straight home game. The Yellow Jackets haven't won at McCamish Pavilion since a Dec. 4 victory over Nebraska. 

Diakite's dunk with 14:47 remaining gave Virginia its biggest lead, 43-29.

The Cavaliers were still up 48-37 with just over 10 minutes to go when Georgia Tech suddenly came to life offensively.

The Yellow Jackets scored on four of five possessions, stringing together a 9-0 run that cut Virginia's edge to 48-46.

That was as close as Georgia Tech would get.

Huff, a 7-foot-1 center, knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key to thwart Georgia Tech's momentum. A few minutes later, he swished another open jumper to make it 55-48. 

Georgia Tech got a basket and a defensive stop, but Braxton Key swooped on for an offensive rebound to give the Cavaliers a second chance. With just over 2 minutes to go, Diakite was left open on the wing for a jumper that made it 57-50, effectively finishing off the Yellow Jackets.

Jose Alvarado paced Georgia Tech with 20 points.

Virginia led 33-25 at halftime, taking advantage of the home team's sloppy play. The Yellow Jackets hit 11 of 18 shots (61.1%) but turned it over 13 times, wasting far too many possessions against the defensive-minded Cavaliers.


Virginia: The Cavaliers picked up a desperately needed victory to avoid their longest losing streak since a four-game skid from Feb. 12-20, 2017. While still a far cry from their national championship squad, Virginia showed some offensive efficiency to go along with its always-tenacious defense. Key chipped in with 10 points. 

Georgia Tech: This is shaping up to be another disappointing season, raising more doubts about whether coach Josh Pastner can turn around a program that is approaching a decade since its last NCAA Tournament appearance. The Yellow Jackets continue to show flashes of promise, but Pastner has been unable to develop any sort of consistency in his fourth season. 


Virginia: Returns home to play North Carolina State on Monday night. 

Georgia Tech: Hits the road for the first of two meetings against No. 11 Louisville. The teams will meet again in Atlanta on March 7, the final game of the regular season.