Same names, different games

Hoyas' Thompson III, Ewing Jr. look to follow in fathers' NCAA title footsteps

East Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 23, 2007|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

WASHINGTON -- They share a legacy, as the sons of the two most influential figures in the history of Georgetown University's basketball program. They also share a dream of doing what their fathers accomplished together nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Much has been written about John Thompson III since he came here to coach the Hoyas three years ago, particularly last season, when he led the team to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. But this year's run to the same juncture of the tournament comes with another namesake trying to make a name for himself.

In basketball terms, Patrick Ewing Jr. has few similarities to his father, who helped Georgetown reach the national title game in three of his four seasons with the Hoyas and led the team to the championship over Houston as a junior in 1984 before losing a memorable final to Villanova the next year.

The father was a 7-foot center who transformed the program from an Eastern power into a national force and became the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. The son is a 6-8 reserve forward who transferred from Indiana after two years and as a junior is just beginning to find his role with the Hoyas.

But there is one startling similarity along with a resemblance in their faces and the tenor of their voices.

When Ewing Jr. made a reverse dunk to help seal Georgetown's 62-55 win over Boston College in Saturday's second-round game at Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C., he displayed the same raw emotion that his father often did during his career.

"We both play with a passion," the younger Ewing said earlier this week, as the Hoyas prepared for tonight's East Regional semifinal against Vanderbilt in East Rutherford, N.J. "We both don't want to lose. It really isn't an option. I don't want to be that person watching the [championship] game on TV the last night instead of being able to play in it. He was the same way."

The younger Ewing's importance to Georgetown's success has grown rapidly in recent weeks. He has averaged more than 20 minutes over the team's past 10 games, scored 15 points in 28 minutes against Notre Dame in the Big East tournament semifinals and has become Georgetown's most versatile defender.

"He has developed and as the year's gone on, much like all the rest of us, he's settled into his role," Thompson III said. "I think he's playing very well right now. All of us have gotten a comfort level with each other and that's one reason we've gotten better."

Finding a comfort level in his name was something the younger Ewing did a long time ago.

"I thought I was always comfortable with it," Ewing Jr. said. "There was never really a point where I thought it was hard to be [in his father's shadow] and I didn't want to play the game anymore. I just love playing the game. This is what brings me joy. Darryl Strawberry [Jr.] had that kind of pressure and he didn't even play the same sport as his dad."

After a high school career spent mostly in Georgia and Maryland, Ewing chose Indiana when he was snubbed by Georgetown coach Craig Esherick, who had been an assistant when Ewing Sr. played for the Hoyas. Ewing Jr. left Indiana when former Hoosiers coach Mike Davis didn't give him enough playing time his first two seasons.

The first coach to call him was Thompson III.

"Coach Thompson basically sat me down and told me, `You don't have to be your dad. You're your own person. You don't play the same position,'" the younger Ewing said. "Everything he [Thompson] was going through, I was going through. His dad was a great coach. But they run different styles of offense, different styles of defense."

Said Thompson III: "Honestly, I think it was more of a factor for his mother and father than it has been for him. We're very similar in that he is very comfortable with who he is. Has he gotten a few more questions because he's wearing [Alonzo Mourning's and his father's] jersey? Yes. I don't think he's losing any sleep over it."

Ewing's father nearly called Thompson III when his own son's playing time was limited early in the season. In this case, Thompson's father intervened, telling his former star: "When you were here, I didn't want anybody's parents talking to me about it. Let him develop that relationship with coach that you developed with me."

A victory tonight could set up an interesting rematch for the second-seeded Hoyas. If top seed North Carolina beats Southern California in the other East Regional semifinal, it will mark the second time since the 1982 championship game that the schools have met in the NCAA tournament.

That game, won by the Tar Heels, featured Ewing and fellow freshman Michael Jordan, whose legend was launched when he hit the game-winning jump shot in the waning seconds. Ewing Jr., who was born a little more than a month after the Hoyas won the 1984 championship game, has watched tapes of the 1982 game.

"First of all, we've both got to get through these next two rounds," said Ewing, whose Hoyas beat Vanderbilt handily in Nashville early in the season. "Of course, I think anyone who's watched a lot of college basketball has seen that tape before. It was a great game. Hopefully if it happens, it will be another great game with a different outcome."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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