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What former Georgetown coach John Thompson III will bring to the Wizards

What former Georgetown coach John Thompson III will bring to the Wizards

On Monday morning, the Washington Wizards announced several key changes to the front office with the hope of reshaping the future of Monumental Sports and Entertainment.

Following the weekend news of Tommy Sheppard being promoted to General Manager of the Washington Wizards, Ted Leonsis, the Chairman and CEO of MSE announced the hiring of former Cleveland Browns executive Sashi Brown, former Philadelphia 76ers medical professional Daniel Medina and former Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. Brown will serve as the senior vice president of a new "Monumental Basketball" collective. The new vertical will include the Capital City Go-Go, Washington Mystics and Wizards District Gaming.

While the hiring of a former football executive will get people talking, the more notable hire from a local perspective is Thompson III, who spent 13 seasons at Georgetown, amassing a record of 278-251 including eight trips to the NCAA Tournament and a trip to the Final Four. Thompson III was let go by the Hoyas at the end of the 2016-17 season following back-to-back losing seasons and a string of early exits in the NCAA Tournament.

Thompson III's role with the Wizards will be to lead the new athlete development and engagement department. Thompson III's department will focus on "maximizing player potential both on and off the court for all Monumental Basketball athletes," the team announced in an official statement. "Employing a holistic development approach, the department will focus on financial literacy, post-playing career opportunities and the overall empowerment and development of athletes.

While Thompson III's tenure at Georgetown ended on a sour note, with consecutive losing seasons and failing to reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since advancing to the 2007 Final Four, the 2013 Big East Coach of the Year and son of legendary college coach John Thompson Jr., has always been lauded as his skills as an educator and developer of young men. 

Having the elder Thompson, along with former Princeton head coach Peter Carril, as a life-long advisors, Thompson III has as rich a basketball pedigree as one could have. He had a front-row seat to where basketball came from and helped guide it to where it's headed.

John Thompson III, The Recruiter

Thompson III was a strong recruiter during the height of his success at Georgetown, consistently hauling in top 25 classes despite the challenging admissions standards the university holds. The Hoyas landed top 10 recruiting classes in 2008 and 2010 and Thompson III landed commitments from McDonald's All-Americans on four different occasions,

He was also responsible for the Hoya's improvement in graduation rate among Division I basketball players, which was at 59 percent from 1992 to 1996 and 47 percent for the freshman class that entered in 1996 and graduated in 1999.

By 2016, the Hoyas' basketball program registered a score of 996 and ranked in the 90th percentile for multi-year Academic Progress Rate (APR).

Thompson III's Coaching Tree

Thompson has also groomed several former players now embarking on coaching careers.

Kevin Broadus left Georgetown after three seasons in 2007 to take the head coaching position at Binghamton and currently serves as the head coach at Morgan State. Sydney Johnson, like Broadus, left Georgetown after three seasons in 2007 to take the head coaching position at Princeton. He spent four seasons with the Tigers before spending the next eight seasons as the head coach at Fairfield University.

David Cox, who joined the Georgetown staff following the departures of Broadus and Johnson, spent three seasons with the Hoyas before taking the associate head coaching position at Rutgers, where he would stay before leaving to take the same job at the University of Rhode Island. He was named head coach of the Rams in 2018. Mike Brennan, the current head coach at American University, spent four seasons on Thompson III's staff from 2009 until 2013, and Tavares Hardy, who spent 2013 until 2016 with the Hoyas, is the head coach at Loyola (Md.)

Thompson III and Player Development

There are former Hoya stars Othella Harrington, Jonathan Wallace, and Patrick Ewing Jr., who still work at Georgetown too. Harrington and Wallace as assistant coaches and Ewing Jr. in the Athletic Department. There are the six different stints as a coach in the USA Basketball program, most recently as an assistant during FIBA World Cup qualifying beginning in 2017. There are the twelve former players to have suited up in the NBA, eight selected in the draft and four earning contracts through free agency, and there are the seven former players currently competing professionally overseas.

Thompson III has a strong track record of aiding his players and employees in taking the next step in their career development. His pedigree and experience grooming highly coveted recruits will be called upon frequently in his new position within Monumental Basketball.

Monumental Basketball's goal is to be the standard-bearer of player development in the future, and that lines up perfectly with Thompson III's best skill set.

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More good injury news for Wizards, this time with Troy Brown Jr. and C.J. Miles

More good injury news for Wizards, this time with Troy Brown Jr. and C.J. Miles

WASHINGTON -- With their regular-season opener set for Wednesday, the Wizards keep getting positive news with the injuries that have plagued them throughout training camp and the preseason. On Monday, both Troy Brown Jr. and C.J. Miles made their practice debuts and Moe Wagner also practiced after getting hurt in the team's last preseason games.

Brown has been out all of preseason due to a strained left calf. Miles has also missed all of preseason after having surgery on his left foot in July. Wagner has been dealing with a bruised back after a collision with Joel Embiid of the Sixers. It sounds like he could be fully cleared soon.

Head coach Scott Brooks tempered expectations on Brown and Miles, noting they did not participate in a full practice and that the regular season is just two days away.

"They went through parts of practice, but not the meat of it, not the bulk of it. But it's a good step," Brooks said.

When asked if Brown and Miles would play on Wednesday when the Wizards battle the Dallas Mavericks, Brooks said he doesn't "anticipate that happening." But for them to get out there at all is a good sign given they are slated to be the top two small forwards on the roster.

With Brown and Miles likely still out for the opener, Brooks may have to go with a big lineup including Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans, or with someone with little NBA experience like Isaac Bonga. He had Bonga start in several preseason games with them out.

For Brown, this has been the longest injury absence of his young career. He had never missed this much time previously at any level.

He was just happy to be back on the court Monday, even if he wasn't yet cleared for contact.

"It's just one of those things where I was itching to get back. A lot of time off, it can be good and back. I just tried to use it as a learning lesson," he said. 

Brown and Miles practicing came one day after point guard Isaiah Thomas practiced fully for the first time since his left thumb surgery in September. With so many players out, Brooks wasn't able to get a full read on his new-look roster during the preseason.

But slowly and surely his players are coming back and it may not be long before the Wizards can suit up with the roster they had in mind during the offseason.

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Garrison Mathews is ready to put Lipscomb University on the NBA map

Garrison Mathews is ready to put Lipscomb University on the NBA map

WASHINGTON -- Garrison Mathews, believe it or not, was not always a shooter. He didn't consider himself one in high school or even early in college. But now, at 22 years old, he has a two-way contract with the Wizards and the primary reason is because of his outside shooting.

Mathews, in a sense, has shot his way to the NBA and is now poised to be the first player in the league ever to come from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.

"It's a crazy experience," Mathews said. "I enjoy being able to put Lipscomb on the map a little bit. Obviously, they haven't had much exposure and they've given me a lot. It's nice helping and giving back in a way."

So, how did we get here? Well, it wasn't always going to be about basketball. Mathews comes from Franklin, Tenn., where high school football is king. Mathews' grandfather was on the 1962 national championship team at Ole Miss. Mathews at one point was on track to follow in those footsteps.

He played wide receiver and tight end in high school and still misses the game.

"There's nothing like it," Mathews said of football.

But as he grew to 6-foot-5 with speed and an improving jumpshot, colleges came calling. And, once they did, Mathews made the difficult decision to focus on basketball full-time. 

Through his early years in college, Mathews realized playing in the NBA was a possiblity. So, he grinded through summers, sharpening his jumper. 

Slowly, but surely, they started falling more consistently.

"I don't know, it just kind of happened that way," Mathews said of becoming known for his shooting.

Mathews shot 34.9 percent from the perimeter his freshman year at Lipscomb. By his senior year, he was making 40.3 percent on eight attempts per game.

And it wasn't just the volume or the percentage that improved, it was the variety of shots he felt confident to even try. If anything has stood out about Mathews so far during his brief tenure with the Wizards, it is his ability to make shots without his feet being set.

Mathews made a shot in a preseason game against the Knicks on Oct. 7 in which his feet were facing the sideline when he caught the ball off a screen. He turned quickly before rising and knocked it down.

Mathews can straighten out his shooting form mid-air and it's something not many players can do. He has worked on it for years.

"There's a lot of times in my workouts where I'm coming off screens or practicing [dribble hand-offs] where I'm coming off a screen and just jumping in the air. That's part of my regiment when I work out," he said.

Mathews has made shots like that consistently in practice, but doing so in a game is a different story. Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has seen plenty of players come along who can't translate what they do in practices to games.

So, he's not ready to crown Mathews as the next J.J. Redick. 

"The percentages will be able to tell us eventually whether those are shots he can make or if we have to have better footwork," Brooks said.

"There's only a few guys that can really square up basically in mid-air and be able to have it. Brad [Beal] has the ability to do that and it took him some time. I don't know if he's one of them, Garrison."

The list of players who make those shots often certainly isn't long. Redick is one, and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson of the Warriors can certainly be included. Kyle Korver of the Bucks also comes to mind.

Korver, in fact, spent some time with Mathews before the Wizards' game against Milwaukee on Oct. 13. Mathews says he has long been compared to Korver, so he listened intently to what Korver had to say.

"I appreciated that from him. It meant a lot," Mathews said.

"[He told me that] when he practices, when he does individual stuff, he goes as hard as he can. And then he works on his body almost as much as he does on the court."

Mathews is confident, but also realistic. He said he would like to follow Korver's path, but knows he has a long way to go to carve out a career like Korver has.

"I feel like later in my career I can be a little bit like him. Maybe not as great as him because he's a great shooter," Mathews said. "But it's cool being able to guard somebody that a lot of people compare you to when you were growing up."

Mathews has learned through his development as a shooter that hard work can lead to success and sometimes even in ways that are unexpected. Maybe someday he will be in Korver's shoes, offering advice to a young player looking up to him.

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