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2023-24 Atlantic 10 Team Preview: George Washington

7. George Washington Revolutionaries

Last Season: For the first time since 2017, the “Revs” finished with a .500 record under first-year commander Chris Caputo. He opened up the offense and milked some career seasons out of a few guys that stayed from the Jamion Christian era: Brendan Adams ran away with the most improved award after his points jumped from 8.2 per game to a ridiculous 17.4, and hit new career highs in every single category. Maximus Edwards ran home with the A10 Rookie of the Year, the first GW player to win it since Sirvaliant Brown did in 1999-00. Hunter Dean posted a career season and now gets to play his graduate season at LSU.

Sitting atop this new-found excitement is James Bishop. Caputo must’ve waved a magic wand and given him Isaiah Wong’s scoring abilities because Bishop led the conference in scoring again… but he did so with 21.6 points per contest compared to his 16.7 the season before. Bishop is the first GW player to make the all-conference first team since J.R. Pinnock in 2006, and sitting 12th all-time in career points at Foggy Bottom among other records. Without question, he’s the best guard they’ve had there since Patricio Garino — maybe the best player since Yuta Watanabe. 

The Revs were also competitive in their pursuits this season: they annihilated South Carolina 79-55, played some close games against Washington State, and Hofstra, and started 5-2 in conference play. They leveled out in conference play but ended the regular season winning four of their last five and earning a modest 7th seed in the conference tournament. Caputo’s chance of leading a deep postseason run was stopped short by a smoking-hot Erik Reynolds and the Saint Joseph’s Hawks. Reynolds outplayed his counterpart with a 34-point performance, but things are still promising in the nation’s capital for Caputo’s army. 

As GW enters the second season under Chris Caputo, he retooled his roster with guys who will likely stay for a little longer in this rebuild. The mission is clear for what was once a top program in the A-10: get back to that stature and win the conference title. Caputo is the guy who will pull them out of this funk following the Mike Lonergan debacle. Is this roster the same as any of those teams? Outside of Bishop and Edwards, the Revs are quite the mystery. 

Returnees: James Bishop, Maximus Edwards, Keegan Harvey

Out: Brendan Adams, Ricky Lindo, Hunter Dean, Quanzi Samuels, Jabari West, Noel Brown, EJ Clark, Amir Harris, Daniel Nixon

In: Benny Schroder, Trey Autry, Jacoi Hutchinson, Garrett Johnson, Darren Buchanan, Antione Smith, Babatunde Akingbola, Zamoku Weluche-Ume

Potential Strengths: Tempo, tempo, tempo. It’s all about tempo and high-octane offense for the Revs. Caputo threw it back to the Karl Hobbs era when he implemented a fast-paced style that was 93rd in adjusted tempo (Kepom). This is best suited for Bishop’s voltaic style when he runs off high screens and shoots his pull-up jumpers. Caputo’s style allowed Bishop to not only raise his intensity as a three-level scorer but also put up points faster than last season. A majority of his shots were threes, 38.3% to be exact. 31.8% were shots twos and then 29.9% came at the rim (Hoop-math). Bishop’s off-ball skills also became apparent when he wasn’t doing the creation himself, utilizing his speed when he had to in cutting scenarios while others created.

Edwards looked every bit of a program cornerstone last season, but there is one element that I found fascinating about him: his ability to adjust to whatever is happening within a game. There are games where he ended up with more rebounds than he did points. 15 rebounds to nine points against St. Bonaventure on Feb. 19, or what about 16 boards and 11 points in a win over Richmond? Standing at 6’5” certainly has something to do with his high rebounding numbers as a guard, but it’s welcomed on a team that had a hard time on the boards last season. He’ll be taking on a much larger role as an initiator now with no Brendan Adams. Benny Schroder transferred in from Oklahoma after seeing limited time due to injury, but he has a very high ceiling given his offensive skill set. He’ll be slotted in the role that Adams held down which gave GW a legit third scoring option, a secondary ball handler, and a strong rebounder on the wings.  

Caputo needed to add defense and rebounding this year. He seemingly found some answers through the portal in that regard: Babatunde Akingbola has the physical tools to be an awesome defensive anchor for the Revs after spending four years at Auburn behind NBA-caliber centers. Garrett Johnson comes along after redshirting at Princeton — the Tigers built a defensive powerhouse which only helps the issues the Revs must address. Darren Buchanan is in a similar boat Edwards was in two years ago: redshirting at a high major program but in need of time. Both wings are athletic and have pretty high ceilings at this level. And just for insurance, Antione Smith joins as a graduate transfer from Evansville to add some more length and shooting. His career 38% from three will be graciously accepted in this high-flying offense.

Potential Weaknesses: Outside of Bishop, Edwards, and Smith, all of GW’s depth is completely unproven. Here are the total career games that each of the transfers have played at the collegiate level:

Babatunde Akingbola: 50 career games (Auburn)

Darren Buchanan: Redshirt (Virginia Tech)

Garrett Johnson: Redshirt (Princeton)

Benny Schroder: 6 career games (Oklahoma)

These four are likely to make up the rest of the starting lineup/hold down important bench minutes. Two redshirt players with potential aren’t something to pass up if you are a coach looking to influx exciting talent into a rebuilding program. Caputo has to take chances on some of these guys to make all of this work. All four players listed above will play by default because GW doesn’t have other options.

The center position is frightful from an outsider’s perspective. I will reiterate: this is one of the stronger seasons the A-10 will have at the center position. Akingbola has the profile of being, at worst, someone who can clear the boards and stand in front of the rim. But his lack of actual playing time — even though it was at Auburn behind NBA talent — questions the kind of game shape he is in to change the defensive culture. Keegan Harvey played eight total games but is no more than a tall shooter, and freshman Zamoku Weluche-Ume may not be ready to play heavy minutes at center right away if he has a lot of defensive potential.

While we’re on the subject of freshmen, Caputo recruited three guards who are likely to see playing time early on: Jacoi Hutchinson holds the most potential in my estimation. He played his high school ball at IMG Academy, that alone speaks volumes. His mental toughness will be a trait that Caputo looks to develop for a team reliant mostly on finesse. Trey Autry (Adrian’s son) also comes into the fold as a capable shooter which is never a bad thing, and Jones is an annoying point guard due to his ability to ball-hawk opposing ball handlers. While each guy presents a different skill for Caputo to use given the scenario, these three may only be able to be role players for now and not have extra duties. Bishop and Edwards’ need for volume is paramount to win games right now, so Caputo may keep his freshmen on the back burner.

Outlook: Defense in general is a concern for these guys, but in time, that will fix itself with this new personnel developing chemistry. They led the conference in points per game (76.3) but also allowed the most (76.7), but getting down to the nitty-gritty of their issues is more insightful than simply writing “the defense wasn’t good” — everyone knows it, including Caputo. They should improve and still maintain a great offense. Bishop and Edwards are the best offensive backcourt in the conference — those two will take them far, but the season-changing element is in their unproven depth. They’ll find themselves smack in the middle of it all this year, and if the depth finds its groove, they could steal an extra win or two.