With Smith-Rivera back for senior year, JT3's Georgetown hopes for run to NCAA 2nd weekend

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    WASHINGTON — After Georgetown's season ended, once again, during the NCAA Tournament's opening week and, once again, against a lower-seeded opponent, guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera decided to submit his name for the NBA draft.

    The player many call "DSR" did not wind up leaving school and signing with an agent, though. Instead, he returned for his senior year for all sorts of reasons, he said, including fulfilling his mother's hope that he would be the first member of his family to graduate from college.

    Another? "We have a special group," Smith-Rivera said, "and that was also a big factor in why I wanted to stay."

    And then, too, there were the Hoyas' recent March Madness failings. Not since 2007, when Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert led Georgetown to the Final Four, has John Thompson III coached his squad to the second weekend of the tournament.

    "It's something that I've thought about since my freshman year," Smith-Rivera said. "I just want to try to continue to get better and continue to try to help guys understand what it takes to win and what it takes to get past that step."

    A year ago, Georgetown went 22-11, losing its second NCAA game to Utah. As a junior, the 6-foot-3 Smith-Rivera led the Hoyas in scoring average at 16.3 points and assists at 3.2 per game; he also was third in rebounding average at 4.2. He ranks 18th in school history with 1,386 career points.

    "He makes the game a lot easier for everybody else," sophomore Isaac Copeland said. "He draws a lot of attention and he has the ball in his hands every play, pretty much, to set up the offense."

    Another sophomore, L.J. Peak, said: "I was happy for him when he said he was leaving, but I was even more happy when he said he was coming back."

    Thompson likes what Smith-Rivera does on the court, of course, but also off it.

    "I've seen a tremendous amount of growth in him from last year to this year, just in the aspects of being a teammate and how hard he's pushing, prodding, cajoling our younger guys," JT3 said, "because he realizes this is his last chance."

    Some other things to know about the Hoyas, whose season begins Nov. 14 against Radford:

    UNRANKED: Georgetown was not ranked in the preseason AP Top 25; it was 22nd in the final poll last season. The Hoyas' reaction, at least publicly? A shrug. "I feel like we didn't show enough to basically prove that we deserve to be in there," Copeland said. "We don't really pay too much attention to that stuff, anyway."

    TERPS REUNION: Georgetown's second game is at Maryland on Nov. 17, part of a difficult non-conference schedule that Thompson called "baptism by fire" and includes games against Wisconsin, former Big East rival Syracuse and either Duke or VCU. Georgetown and Maryland first played each other in 1935, but they haven't met since the 2008-09 season. Asked whether Terps vs. Hoyas is something kids playing now care about, Thompson replied: "By the time we get out there, this group will."

    SOPHOMORE SURGE: As freshmen last season, Peak started 32 of 33 games, while Copeland started 11. That duo, along with Tre Campbell and Paul White, form a talented group of sophomores. "I'm putting a lot on their shoulders," Thompson said. "But I think they can handle it. In many ways, that class is the core of what we have."

    KEY FRESHMEN: Thompson speaks highly of his newcomers, from 6-foot-10 center Jessie Govan, to 6-7 forward Marcus Derrickson, to 6-6 Kaleb Johnson. "They bring a hardness that we need," the coach said. Govan's arrival got most of the attention from outsiders; Thompson goes on and on about Derrickson. "A big, physical, rugged, aggressive kid. Gets rebounds. Can score on the block. But he also can shoot. He can really shoot," Thompson said.

    Freelance writer Bobby Bancroft contributed to this report.

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