The Pitt-Georgetown game marks a homecoming for Panthers freshman point guard James Robinson, who joined with Hoyas sophomore Mikael Hopkins to lead DeMatha Catholic to three consecutive city championships at Verizon Center.
What I found interesting is that, despite its proximity, Georgetown wasn’t among Robinson’s finalists when he committed to Pitt in August 2011. He chose the Panthers over Miami, Notre Dame and Virginia.
“I was considering going to Georgetown,” Robinson said Saturday. “Coach (John) Thompson III and the rest of their staff, they do a great job with their players. But with (Pitt) coach (Jamie) Dixon and the rest of the staff, I just felt I fit better here and I’m happy with my decision.”
Georgetown pursued Kyle Anderson instead, and signed score-first point guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera out of Oak Hill Academy after Anderson chose UCLA.
But Pitt assistant coach Brandin Knight, who knows something about feeling slighted by his hometown school, indicated that Robinson could have hard feelings about Georgetown considering the Hoyas signed Hopkins, his former DeMatha teammate. A 6-foot-9 forward who is averaging 8 points and 2.9 rebounds a game for the Hoyas, Hopkins was only the second DeMatha player to pick the Hoyas in a 40-year span.
Apparently, there was some tension between Hall of Fame coaches John Thompson and Morgan Wootten dating to their days as rival high school coaches at St. Anthony’s and DeMatha, respectively. When Georgetown selected Thompson over Wootten, the bad blood boiled. It only got worse when Thompson lobbied for Bob Wade to get the Maryland job.
Thompson didn’t take a DeMatha player from 1972-2002.
The DeMatha ban continued when top assistant Craig Esherick succeeded Thompson and until Wooten retired in 2002 with 1,192 career victories. Austin Freeman ended a 30-year DeMatha drought at Georgetown when he picked the Hoyas in 2007.
Knight, who wasn’t heavily recruited by Seton Hall despite starring at Seton Hall Prep, indicated that Robinson could have some extra incentive when Pitt (12-3, 0-2) plays the No. 19 Hoyas (10-2, 0-1) at 9 p.m. at Verizon Center.
“We’ve all internalized that,” Knight said. “I don’t know if you call it disrespect. When a local school doesn’t recruit you, especially if it’s a school you’re interested in or have some type of affiliation with, you take it as a slap in the face and go out and prove to them that they made a mistake.”