GW Men's Basketball: 2012-13 Season Preview
Nov. 6, 2012
As Year 2 of the Mike Lonergan era is set to begin in Foggy Bottom this November, a new look George Washington men's basketball team began to take shape inside the Charles E. Smith Center and halfway around the world this past August.
Coach Lonergan and his 13-player roster spent 10 days practicing ahead of 11 days in Italy this summer seeking to form a new identity and put the 2011-12 season in the rear-view mirror.
GW went 4-1 during its tour, posting a 28-point margin of victory while averaging nearly 84 points. Based on player performances, it's conceivable that the Colonials could start four newcomers in 2012-13.
Three of GW's top four scorers during the tour will make their debut in the Buff and Blue this season - freshmen Patricio Garino (12.0 ppg in Italy) and Joe McDonald (10.0 ppg) and Villanova transfer Isaiah Armwood (10.4). Coupled with talented 6-foot-10 freshman post Kevin Larsen, who averaged 7.6 points in Italy, the Colonials are poised to chart a new path to success for this season and the near future.
"Our newcomers have meshed well with our returners and looked solid during our five games in Italy," said Coach Lonergan. "We needed to replace some talent we graduated and increase our talent level. I think we've accomplished that with these five freshmen and transfer Isaiah Armwood."
Coach Lonergan's first incoming class at GW has reestablished what has proven to be a recipe for success for the Colonials in recent history - mining the best players from the local DC metro area, as well as international talent. All six new Colonials - Armwood, Garino, Larsen, McDonald, and freshmen Paris Maragkos and Kethan Savage - have either international or DC metro ties.
The Colonials won't solely rely on the influx of talent though as three starters and seven letterwinners return to the lineup, highlighted by leading returning scorer senior Lasan Kromah. Kromah did a little bit of everything for GW last season, finishing second on the team in scoring (11.1 ppg), rebounds (5.1 rpg), assists (2.5 apg) and blocks (0.6 bpg), while pacing the squad in steals (1.7 spg).
GW enjoyed success in Italy despite playing without senior forward David Pellom, who underwent surgery on his left wrist in July. As a junior, Pellom averaged career-best numbers of 10.4 points and a team-leading 6.1 rebounds in 27 games played, mainly off the bench. His .685 field goal percentage (122-178), aided by a team-high 38 dunks, set a new GW single-season program record.
"David came on extremely strong at the end of last season with five double-doubles in our last six games, so his missed practice time and potential missed games will have a big impact," said Coach Lonergan. "However, once he returns to full strength, I think he's going to make our frontcourt our team's biggest strength."
Even without Pellom, the Colonials will have a much-improved frontcourt presence with the addition of a pair of Montrose Christian Academy products in Armwood and Larsen. Armwood is an active rebounder and defender who is expanding his offensive range. He'll need to shoulder a larger scoring load under Coach Lonergan after averaging 2.4 points in 61 games at Villanova, but has used the year layoff to improve his offensive skill set and is ready to embrace the challenge.
Larsen, a member of the Danish Youth National Team, played alongside a star-studded cast at Montrose Christian in nearby Rockville, Md. Primarily a back-to-the-basket post presence, Larsen will prove to be a load for opponents in the paint this season with his blend of sheer size, great hands, and court vision.
Returning starters Dwayne Smith and John Kopriva add depth to the front line after combining for 34 starts last winter. Smith got the bulk of his starts late in his junior season as he evolved into a reliable scorer around the rim, while Kopriva was thrust into a starting role to begin his freshman season. Smith will likely be counted on for even more starts as a senior, especially if Pellom's return is delayed.
Sophomore forward Jonathan Davis and Maragkos provide additional frontcourt options for Coach Lonergan. A native of Amarousi, Greece, Maragkos played in Greece's Youth National program and brought the typical European offensive arsenal - a variety of post moves and shooting range - to the Blue Ridge School in southern Virginia last year.
Mentored by NBA All-Star Manu Ginobili and a member of the Argentinean Youth National Team, Garino is an efficient scorer and tenacious defender who will make immediate contributions to the Colonials.
McDonald, the Atlantic 10's lone incoming PARADE All-American at Landon School in Bethesda, Md., appears set to assume the starting point guard role following the graduation of last year's leading scorer Tony Taylor, while Bynes will serve as back-up at the point and another option on the wing.
Sharp-shooting junior forward Mikic spent the offseason transforming his body as he continues to transition his role into a more complete all-around player. The sleeker Mikic, who has shed nearly 15 pounds since last season, could very well prove to be a multi-dimensional scorer for the Colonials this season.
"The addition of these six talented newcomers to our seven returners really translates into one huge quality for our team that we were lacking last year, and that's depth," said Coach Lonergan. "We will be able to go two deep at nearly every position and I expect to consistently go 10- or 11-players deep during games this season."
Along with McDonald, Coach Lonergan can also look to another Washington Post All-Met freshman in the backcourt in Savage, an explosive athlete known for his highlight reel dunks at Episcopal High School in nearby Alexandria, Va.
The competition in the new-look Atlantic 10 Conference promises to be much stiffer than in Italy with the addition of recent NCAA Final Four participants Butler and VCU to the league's membership. However, if GW's newcomers can adjust to the college game as quickly as they gelled with the returners to find success in Italy, the Colonials could find themselves in the thick of things at the A-10 Championship in the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn come March.