(Photo courtesy of Mitchell Layton)
GW Basketball season is rapidly approaching: They played their first public, competitive game on October 30th with an exhibition against D-III Western Connecticut and will get their season, and the Chris Caputo era, officially underway on November 7th against D-II Virginia State.
Who are all of the new faces? What will the rotation look like? What are some realistic expectations? All of those questions, and more, will be answered here:
Introducing the Newcomers:
Chris Caputo: Head Coach
Chris Caputo comes to GW after 20+ years of D-1 coaching experience with George Mason and Miami. In his time at Miami, Caputo helped lead his team to the ACC title in 2013 and five NCAA Tournament berths. This past season, Miami had their most success in March Madness under Head Coach Jim Larrañaga and Caputo, advancing all the way to the Elite Eight before bowing out to Kansas. Caputo’s teams have been known to be very fundamentally sound on the defensive end and to feature lots of small ball lineups. Perhaps his biggest strength: Caputo is one of the most well connected and respected people in the sport of basketball, and seems to have contacts not just in the DMV, but around the world, like Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra, former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy, NBA Legend and Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing (wink wink), and NBA Super-Insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
Maximus Edwards: 6-5 Wing, Redshirt Freshman
After redshirting his first year at Kansas State, Max Edwards made the decision to transfer to GW. With the Wildcats, Edwards was projected to contribute right away off the bench before sustaining a leg injury that forced him out of practice until February. Now, with four years of eligibility, Edwards looks to bring defensive intensity, jaw-dropping athleticism, and three level scoring to Foggy Bottom. He gave fans a taste of what he can offer during the Western Connecticut State scrimmage, with 18 PTS, 9 RBS, 6-11 FG, 3-6 3PT, and a few highlight reel plays.
— GW Men's Basketball (@GW_MBB) October 30, 2022
E.J. Clark: 5-11 Guard, Grad Transfer
After spending two years at the JUCO level and two years in the Southwestern Athletic Conference at Alabama State, E.J. Clark will provide GW with steady ball handling, efficient scoring, and on-ball pressure on the defensive end. Last season at Alabama State, Clark averaged 8.0 PTS, 2.0 AST, .426 3P%, and .853 FT% in 20.6 MPG. If Clark can keep up the efficiency in a similar role, he will be one of the premier backup guards in the conference.
Keegan Harvey: 6-11 Forward, Junior
The Australian transfer from College of Charleston technically joined the team last season, but is only eligible to play now. Even though Keegan Harvey is the tallest player on the team (just edges out Noel Brown), he will spend most of his minutes operating on the perimeter and shooting threes. Most of Harvey’s value will come on the offensive end until he is able to bulk up and show that he can provide any sort of impact on defense.
Jabari West Jr.: 6-8 Forward, Freshman
Jabari West had a decorated high school career, finishing as the #8 player in Arkansas while racking up multiple all state and all conference awards. He has yet to get in much meaningful practice for GW so far due to a series of concussions. Even though West was originally one of former Head Coach Jamion Christian’s recruits, he decided to stick around, and once he’s healthy should provide GW with a balanced offensive game.
Who left last year?
Jamion Christian: Former GW Head Coach
Despite finishing with their best conference record since 2016-17, GW made the decision to cut ties with Jamion Christian. A disappointing result against UMass in last year’s A-10 tournament and doubts about his in-game coaching were the driving forces behind this decision. Christian has not landed another coaching gig, and is instead hosting a podcast, Last Call with Jamion Christian.
Joe Bamisile, Oklahoma: 6-4 Wing, Junior
Fan favorite Joe Bamisile was one of the most exciting players to grace the Smith Center floor, and had an incredibly productive sophomore season at GW before transferring to Oklahoma. He averaged 16.3 PTS, 5 RBS, 1.2 STL, and 1.0 BLK, was named to the All A-10 3rd Team, had multiple appearances in Sportscenter Top 10 with his highlight reel dunks, and a game winning layup in an upset victory over George Mason. He is expected to fight for a spot in the starting lineup for the Sooners this year.
Brayon Freeman, Rhode Island: 6-2 Guard, Sophomore
In a rare and controversial move, Brayon Freeman made the decision to transfer within the conference to Rhode Island after an excellent freshman season with GW. Making the All A-10 Rookie Team, Freeman averaged 10.3 PTS, .438 3P%, 3.7 AST, and 1.3 STL. Freeman should have another successful season running the point for the Rams. Unfortunately for GW, they only play Rhode Island away, so Freeman’s return to the Smith Center will have to be put off at least another year.
GW will begin the season with this starting lineup:
- Brendan Adams
- James Bishop
- Max Edwards
- Ricky Lindo Jr.
- Hunter Dean
While he may traditionally be thought of as a point guard, Bishop has found a lot of success playing off the ball and operating purely as a scorer. Bishop has shown that he can score and lead an offense, and will be relied upon to do that once again this season. Adams will step into the primary ball handling position here and will take on a much larger role this year as a facilitator. We saw Adams play this role last year when he would come off the bench. Edwards will most likely act as the secondary scoring option behind Bishop, and will look to contribute most to the offense on catch and shoot threes and drives to the basket. Edwards will also be a strong presence in transition, both with his active hands on defense and his speed down the court. Reports are that Lindo has taken a big step forward this year, and with there being more touches to go around following Bamisile and Freeman’s departure, he should be able to significantly improve on his 7.7 PPG. Lindo will look to be much more aggressive on offense and use his NBA body to score downhill and in the paint. Center was somewhere where people thought there might be a bit of a position battle, but Dean was able to reclaim his spot in the starting five. We know what we’re going to get with Dean: A rim running, defensive oriented, rebounding presence. Anything beyond that will be a pleasant surprise.
The main players coming off the bench will be E.J. Clark, Amir Harris, Qwanzi Samuels, and Noel Brown. At 5-11, Clark will almost exclusively play the point when he’s in, and will be able to keep the offense flowing. He may not be able to create too much on his own, but he will be a classic, steady, “know your role” type of backup. Harris, the once highly touted transfer from Nebraska, hopes to finally be healthy and be able to contribute meaningful minutes to GW. Caputo will definitely need Harris, as this team does not have a lot of guard depth. When he’s on, Harris can defend 1-4, provide spot up shooting, and keep the ball moving on offense. Samuels is another player who will look to step up this season. Without a real option at the backup small forward/wing position, Samuels has been working on his perimeter game in practice this offseason and may feature at the 3 in some jumbo lineups. Corner threes, screens, and a versatile defensive game make Samuels one of the most underrated players on the squad. Brown could be this team’s X factor. Named to the Kenner League’s (Washington D.C.’s pro-am) All-Defensive team this summer, Brown looks to be able to stay on the court more this year and contribute on both ends. One of the biggest players in the conference at 6-11, 260, Brown has the potential to be a game changer.
At the end of the bench, Keegan Harvey and Daniel Nixon will both be acting more as “gadget” players. Based on Harvey’s performance in the exhibition against D-111 Western Connecticut State, until he gets stronger, he is pretty much unplayable at the defensive end. Harvey may get some run at the end of a half where a play can be drawn up for him to get him a shot, and he won’t have to defend, but beyond that, he probably won’t play extended minutes. Nixon has yet to show anything that would warrant a spot in the rotation, but he does have enough size and athleticism to hold his own if he’s on the floor with players who can create their own offense.
Highlighting the Non-Conference Schedule:
11/11 vs. Howard
Projected 3rd in the MEAC, inter-city rival Howard will provide a great test for Chris Caputo in his first D-1 matchup as a Head Coach. Howard has some real talent this year, with preseason All-MEAC selections Elijah Hawkins and Steve Settle III and Penn transfer Jehlani Williams leading the way. While this should be a win, it’s always a big deal anytime GW gets to play a local school and this will not be a game to miss.
11/14 @ Hofstra
This game will be GW’s first, and most challenging true road game until conference play. Hofstra was selected to finish 2nd in the CAA, and features the reigning conference player of the year in guard Aaron Estrada. This is definitely a team that could be dancing come March.
11/30 vs. South Carolina
The Gamecocks will be the first power five opponent to come to the Smith Center since 2017, when, ironically, Caputo’s Miami squad beat GW 59-50. South Carolina features one of the country’s top freshmen in 6-9 F GG Jackson, who may be the toughest individual player GW will have to defend all year. This game will also be GW’s first nationally broadcasted game of the season (CBSSN). Despite their name recognition and starpower, South Caroline is projected to finish near the bottom of the SEC, and could provide an opportunity for GW to steal an upset.
12/22-25 Diamond Head Classic
GW returns to Hawaii to take part in the Diamond Head Classic for the first time since beating #11 ranked Wichita State to win the tournament in 2014. This year, they’ll be joined by opening round opponent Washington State, the always solid SMU, Rick Pitino’s Iona, Utah State, Seattle, Pepperdine, and host Hawaii. Washington State is projected to finish in the middle of the Pac 12, and if a few things go their way could push for an at-large tournament bid. The Cougars lost in the NIT Semifinals last year, and return star big man Mouhamed Gueye. Wazzu is the clear favorite to win this tournament, but if GW is able to cause an early upset, there is a relatively open path to the title. If they win, Caputo and Edwards have both promised to continue the tradition started by former Head Coach Mike Lonergan in 2014 and don grass skirts and perform a celebratory hula dance.
— NBC Sports Washington (@NBCSWashington) December 25, 2014
The Atlantic 10 conference is looking as competitive as ever, with Dayton and Saint Louis both expected to fight for a top 25 spot. Right now, Dayton is ranked 24th and Saint Louis is just outside the top 25, receiving 36 votes in the AP poll. Dayton returns their entire rotation, featuring Rookie of the Year DaRon Holmes, 6th Man of the Year Koby Brea, All A-10 3rd Team member Toumani Camara, and standout point guard Malachi Smith, while also adding Mike Sharavjamts, or “Mongolian Mike,” who is expected to be one of the top freshmen in the conference. Saint Louis also returns all of their key players, like potential player of the year and one of the country’s top point guards Yuri Collins, three point sniper Gibson Jimerson, and maybe most importantly, Javonte Perkins, who returns to the Billikens for his 6th year after being injured all of last season. After those two, VCU slots in as another solid team that should push for an at-large bid in March behind their signature defensive dominance.
Following that consensus top three, there are a lot of very solid teams that could all finish anywhere between 4-10. Loyola Chicago will look to impress in their first year in the A-10. New Head Coach Frank Martin has revitalized UMass with a seemingly never-ending list of transfers. Even though Richmod and Davidson both lost key pieces, they will be tough to count out after qualifying for last season’s March Madness. George Mason will be dangerous as long as they have potential conference player of the year Josh Oduro, along with a few other solid pieces. Familiar face Archie Miller and his Rhode Island squad could surprise people with a solid transfer class, featuring Freeman and maybe UNC transfer Antony Harris by the time conference play starts up.
Rounding out the conference, St. Bonaventure is fielding an entirely new team, Fordham has to go forward without Kyle Neptune after he took over at Villanova, Saint Joseph’s and LaSalle both made what look like positive changes at Head Coach, but still lack the talent to make a real difference, and Duquesne looks like they’ll be in for another tough season after losing their best player Primo Spears to Georgetown. Important to note: with the A-10 expanding to 15 teams, the notorious first round “pillow fight” has grown from the bottom four teams to the bottom six, so it will be even more difficult to earn a first round bye.
Preseason polls and projections do not have GW faring very well this season. The A-10 preseason poll and this website’s poll both have GW at 12, while KenPom’s projections have them all the way down at 14. On the surface, these low rankings make sense. Even after a relatively successful season last year finishing 7th in the conference, GW lost their head coach, arguably their best player in Joe Bamisile, and their most promising freshman in Brayon Freeman.
However, Chris Caputo and his staff already look like an upgrade and should have GW playing a much more effective style of basketball. Max Edwards should be able to provide most of what Joe Bamisile did, and maybe even a little more on the defensive end. Even though Brayon Freeman showed a ton of potential, E.J. Clark will be a very effective backup point guard and there should not be too much of a difference in overall production in that spot. While it is clear that the A-10 has improved as a conference this year, GW should be considered in the second tier of teams, not the third. They have the most returning upperclassmen minutes, legit contenders for A-10 Most Outstanding Player and Rookie of the Year in James Bishop and Edwards, and one of the most physical and dominant defensive players in Ricky Lindo Jr. (who many believe will breakout offensively as well). It should not be a surprise if GW finishes higher then they are projected to and avoids the expanded pillow fight.