Georgetown's season-ending men's basketball banquet takes place Thursday night. The annual event serves as a celebration and a chance for departing players to say goodbye to those associated with the program.
For eight days, it seemed D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera would be making a farewell speech on Thursday. In the end, the playmaking guard realized work on the Hilltop remained.
The Hoyas' leading scorer spoke with local reporters on Thursday for the first time since reversing course on his decision to enter the NBA Draft. Smith-Rivera will play his senior season with Georgetown.
"I’ve been here three years. We still haven’t turned that corner," Smith-Rivera said. "I feel like this year we had a great team, but next year we’ll have an even better team with the guys coming in and a lot of the guys that we have now."
As far as the pro ranks, Smith-Rivera hopes another year of school will also help make him a better prospect.
The program announced Smith-Rivera's plans to enter the NBA Draft on March 31. The news caught many off-guard. Though selected all-Big East after averaging 16.3 points as a junior, the Indianapolis native is not considered a first-round selection. DraftExpress.com, one of the leading NBA Draft evaluation sites, does not list the 6-foot-2 guard among their top 100 prospects.
"It’s a dream," Smith-Rivera said of playing in the NBA. "I didn’t really think about it too much until the season was actually over."
After primarily consulting with Georgetown head coach John Thompson III and assessing his own game, Smith-Rivera thought he was ready. "I was just comfortable with my game at the time. I felt like I had all the attributes to further push my career.
Reports surfaced eight days later that Smith-Rivera changed his mind. With their leading man back, Georgetown should land comfortably among the top 20 teams in preseason polls. Smith-Rivera is one of three returning starters, including forward Isaac Copeland and wing L.J. Peak, both rising sophomores.
"I know we have a really good team next year. The structure of our team, we have a lot of core guys coming back. Even though we lost a lot of seniors, I think we’re going to be really good. Also, I wanted to finish school. I talked to my parents. They wanted me to have something to fall back on," he continued.
Smith-Rivera also averaged 4.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.6 steals while shooting 86 percent from the free throw line and 39 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
Georgetown finished 22-11 this past season and tied for second in the Big East at 12-6. The Hoyas defeated Eastern Washington in NCAA Tournament before losing to Utah in the round of 32.
Tre Campbell and Smith-Rivera likely form the starting backcourt next season. Along with Copeland, Peak, forward Paul White plus three current members of the 2015 class, this roster is arguably the most athletic under coach John Thompson III. Center Jessie Govan, forward Marcus Derrickson and forward Kaleb Johnson are all four-star recruits.
Smith-Rivera will now have a chance to play against Maryland for the first time in his career. The Hoyas and Terps recently announced a home-and-home series starting this November. The matchup pits Smith-Rivera against Maryland's Melo Trimble, who was one of the top point guards in the country last season.
"Biggest game of the season for sure," he said of facing the Terps as a big smile dominated his face.
His NCAA Tournament experience has largely ended with a frown. This year's win was the first for Smith-Rivera in his three seasons. He has yet to play in a Sweet 16 game, let alone a Final Four.
"Just getting out of the corner," he said, repeating a primary team goal. "See if I can get it done."
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