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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: May 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paul Hewitt wastes no time filling the open scholarship left by Luke Hancock

It certainly didn't take long for new head coach Paul Hewitt to fill the open spot on the roster left by Luke Hancock's departure to Louisville.  By now you have probably seen the news that Seton Hall forward Anali Okoloji will be transferring to George Mason.  The 6'8" forward didn't play much in his freshman season at Seton Hall but was a highly coveted recruit back coming out. You will notice he was listed as a shooting guard on the recruiting sites and has been described as a 'wing forward' who can rebound and score inside and out. Although he couldn't get on the floor at Seton Hall the hope is a change in scenery and a new coaching staff will help bring out his potential.

Okoloji will sit out the 2011-2012 season by NCAA transfer rules and then join the class of Erik Copes, Corey Edwards, and Vaughn Gray in 2012-2013.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Luke Hancock will transfer to Louisville

Well most fans saw this coming and now it is official that Luke Hancock will transfer to Louisville.  Hancock anchored the starting lineup last season and was a vital part of the team's success. Now that they are down two starters instead of just one you have to wonder if this is still a Top 30 team entering into the 2011-2012 season. With this latest departure next year's squad currently doesn't have a player who averaged more than 1.7 assists a game. Paul Hewitt will need a point guard to step up because the flow on offense for this team will be very different than what we saw last year.

Sherrod Wright's return helps fill the scoring void left by Hancock's departure but he doesn't handle the ball as well. Vertrail Vaughns could end up seeing the most increase in minutes as a result of this transfer and could find himself handling the ball a lot. Hewitt might lean on the front court players more as they are going to be the team's strength heading into next season.  The addition of Erik Copes helps give them depth in there and might provide better opportunities and second chances for the guards.

This latest news just adds to the number of question marks heading into next season.  The new coaching staff still has a lot of talent to work with but the expectations of a CAA title in their first season might be a little less in reach. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Erik Copes says his uncle followed him to George Mason, not the other way around

Very interesting article today from on Erik Copes moving from George Washington to George Mason. According to Copes he made the decision to leave GW after the firing of Karl Hobbs and  it just so worked out that his uncle ended up with him at George Mason to work under Paul Hewitt. Here are the quotes:
"I know," Copes said, laughing. "Everybody thinks I'm just following him. This time, he followed me."

"Everything that happened at GW [the firing of coach Karl Hobbs] really hurt me," said Copes, "because I'd been around that program since I was 13 years old. I had my heart set on going there. I did talk to people at GW, even [higher-ups in the administration]. They wanted me to stay.

"But I wanted to check other options. I wasn't sure how this was going to play out. My desire has always been to play college ball under my uncle. If my uncle didn't find a school that was going to make him happy, he was going to get out of coaching and just take a job in an office, or something. But he knew George Mason would be a good situation, and that the new coach [Paul Hewitt] has had a lot of success, so things worked out, now he's on the staff and we'll be there together."
The way the news originally broke it certainly seemed like the other way around. Regardless of the means of Copes getting here, he's here and will be a force on the Patriots next season.  It will be interesting to see his early role on next season's team considering Hewitt has a guard heavy offense and Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson are fully entrenched as starters in the front court. 


Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's official, Erik Copes is coming to George Mason

George Mason got a huge commitment today from Erik Copes, a top 75 recruit and a rare steal for a team in the CAA. New head coach Paul Hewitt got a two-for-deal with the hiring of Roland Houston as Copes will follow his uncle to Fairfax. He is without a doubt that most highly rated recruit to ever commit to the green and gold, has him rated #57 in the nation and ESPN at #55. Copes will have an immediate impact on next year's Patriots squad next season as he is the gritty blue-collar front court player they have been lacking in the front court.  He should be a solid force on the boards playing with Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson.  

I've been reading some local articles from the Philadelphia media and they all speak to his work ethic and unselfish play.  He labels himself as the "dirty man" that "cleans up everything". Here is a quote from after he led team to victory in the state semifinals:
"What I like to do, everybody doesn't. Guys don't always want to rebound. Don't want to be the tough guy. Me? Hey, I'll do that."
I'd venture to say that it's hard to find a coveted recruited that has that kind of attitude. One of the things that made George Mason such a strong team last season was that they had a group of players that all know their roles.  Copes seems like a guy to me that would really know his role and place on the team early and will do whatever he can to help his team win.

Copes is a big time rebounder and shot blocker but not a true scorer. In the game where the above quote was from he only attempted two shots from the floor and collected six total points.  He averaged just under eight points a game during his senior year of high school.  The report on him reads that knows how to use his strength and body down low to be a factor on the offensive and defensive glass.  Copes not being a dominant scorer is no problem for the Patriots who will have no shortage of offensive fire power next season.

Here are some highlights of Copes starting at about the 1:25 mark:

The only real weakness to Copes seems to be his ability to run the floor. His conditioning needs to improve. Last year's Patriots' team was very good at running up and down the court but remember that Paul Hewitt's offensive strategy might consist of more half court sets. Endurance and conditioning however is something a player can overcome with proper training at the college level.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Paul Hewitt adds Roland Houston from GW to his staff

Paul Hewitt has finally added another assistant to his coaching staff, Roland Houston from George Washington.  TheMasonBench is saying it's a done deal but Coach Houston joining the George Mason staff isn't the most interesting news. Houston has a nephew, Erik Copes, who is a prized 2011 recruit who was committed to GW but has since been released from his letter of intent. Perhaps to follow his uncle to from Foggy Bottom to Fairfax? Copes is a 6'8" 230 pound center who is one of the top rated recruits in the country at his position.  ESPN has him as the 6th rated center in his class, while has him at #5, so yeah this would be a huge get for George Mason if it happens.

Roland Houston is labeled as a "respected big man coach" and "is widely known throughout Philadelphia and the East Coast." He could really help develop Johnny Williams and Jonathan Arledge and perhaps improve Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison's rebounding and interior defense.  Houston is a great addition to the staff to complement Paul Hewitt's guard heavy mentality.

The possibility of Erik Copes coming to George Mason could mean a lot of things for the Patriots. First of all he'd be the highest rated recruit to ever commit to the green and gold and would very likely have an immediate impact on the 2011-2012 season.  He's labeled as a blue-collar type player who works hard in the low post collecting rebounds and blocking shots.  There are no players on the current roster who could be described like that and Copes is the kind of asset the Patriots need to go toe-to-toe with more BCS programs.  His offensive game is limited to dunks and tip-ins around the basket, which won't be a problem because the Patriots will not have any shortage of scoring power next season. 

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Recruits Paul Hewitt is targeting

I thought it was interesting to read from ESPN's Dave Telep that Paul Hewitt was still scouting recruits even after his dismissal from Georgia Tech.  The guy has a passion for evaluating young talent and probably wanted to keep the an eye on what was out there in case he did get back into coaching. Don't forget he might have some global reach as he is head coach of the U19 national team this summer. So far it seems Hewitt and assistant coach Chris Kreider are busy hitting the recruiting trails and a few names of kids they are looking at have surfaced. Keep in mind these guys would be in the 2012 recruiting class.

Devon Scott (6'8" 210): He stated on twitter that George Mason had contacted him. The connection is probably from Chris Kreider's time at Georgia Southern because they had offered to him. He was averaging a double-double on his Columbus, Ohio high school were he also played with Ohio State's Jared Sullinger.  He's a video of him playing against Sullinger in a different league. Would be a solid front court rebounder for the Patriots.

Mohammed Alie-Cox (6'6" 240): First of all, awesome name, Alie-Cox is another double-double type player who is "built like a linebacker".  He is a local kid from Fairfax who consistently produces and had a couple of 20 point/ 20 rebound performances in high school.  

Eric Fanning (6'5" 200):  One of the latest names we have heard. Don't know if he's a SG or SF but he seems very athletic and can just flat out score. You can find a couple of videos of him destroying some weak high school competition.  The Recruit Scoop describes him as an excellent offensive rebounder and that he gets to the basket with ease. He averaged about 11 rebounds a game in high school and also once dropped 53 in a contest.  He is also one that assistant coach Chris Kreider was looking at while at Georgia Southern.

Donovon Jack (6'9" 200): It was reported today that George Mason has offered to Jack.  A high energy forward who would be keeping with the tradition of Mason having lefty forwards.  

Barrington Alston (6'8" 220): Another outstanding rebounder the staff has offered to but I'm not sure if this offer came before Larranaga's departure. Nevertheless he is another example of how the Patriots are looking to upgrade their rebounding.  Not the best scorer but definitely the type of physical forward Mason could use in the front court.

If Luke Hancock does in fact transfer the team will have another open scholarship that they will likely use for a 2012 recruit.  That would make this 2012 class very important to the team's immediate future and we will be seeing a lot more names added to this list.  But for now I wanted to show the type of recruits Coach Hewitt and Kreider are currently targeting.  


Monday, May 09, 2011

Will Larranaga Court ever happen at George Mason?

Eric Angevine of, and big CAA follower talks about the chances of George Mason ever playing on "Larranaga Court". Mason fans have been talking about this since the 2006 Final Four but now with Larranaga's resignation from the green and gold people wonder if it will ever happen.  Angevine cites Corey Schmidt of Halcyon Hoops who made this chart showing that Larranaga falls below the average tenure for what it took for most other schools to name the court after their coach:

Chart by Halcyon Hoops

I agree with what they saying that if Larranaga had retired instead of moving on to Miami this would be closer to a lock but currently the sting is still there from his departure. Most would say his accomplishments at George Mason would merit a court naming but does jumping ship to South Beach overshadow that?  Say he has three subpar seasons at Miami and retires, would the fan base still be bitter?  It's an interesting question because let's face it George Mason doesn't do much to honor former players or coaches.  There is no retired jersey of George Evans hanging in the rafters and the all the Final Four guys got were toy sized bobble-heads


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Paul Hewitt's first recruiting pull at George Mason was getting Corey Edwards to stay

When a coach leaves a program the incoming recruits re-evaluate if they want to still honor their letter of intent. A new coach coming in has the difficult task of trying to get these kids to stay.  Vaughn Gray didn't seem to hesitate and said as soon as Paul Hewitt was hired that he would honor his commitment with George Mason.  Corey Edwards wasn't as quick to make that decision.  It was rumored earlier this week that Jim Larranaga had reached out to Edwards and asked if he wanted to follow him to South Beach. After the news got out Edwards story slightly changed and he said a Miami assistant coach merely asked him if he liked Miami. Then Edwards stated "in June I'm coming to George Mason".

Edwards was probably on the fence and then Coach Hewitt went to visit his family and being the stellar recruiter that he is probably eased any doubts he may have had about coming to George Mason post-Larranaga.  He's a quote from Edwards that shows how Hewitt's background could pay dividends for the Patriots' on the recruiting trails:
"Once I found out they hired him, it was real positive, knowing he was an ACC coach, he put guys in the league. He knows how to win, basically,” Edwards said. “He’s a great coach. He’s recruited the best, he’s coached the best.”
The fact that guys like Gray and Edwards decided to stay means that they see stability still in the program despite the coaching changes. Some Mason fans may have wanted a young up-and-comer assistant to take the reins but you know what, I doubt these kids would have stayed committed to the green and gold if that had happened.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Georgia Tech fans were pretty harsh on Paul Hewitt

No one likes losing but it certainly got ugly with Georgia Tech fans and Paul Hewitt towards the end of his time in Atlanta. Hewitt had a little problem ignoring fans on twitter, which is probably why you won't see a MasonCoachHewitt account spring up anytime soon. Tech fans went so far as to create and produce a series of videos like the one below.  Sure Mason fans don't have a history of this but the last time George Mason had consecutive losing seasons or a losing conference record for that matter, the internet didn't even exist. Don't stoop to this level no matter what happens Mason Nation.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Watch Paul Hewitt's Press Conference

Washington Post has the short highlights of Paul Hewitt's remarks yesterday:

Here is the full video from

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Paul Hewitt hires first assistant, retains both 2011 incoming recruits

We learned that none of Paul Hewitt's from Georgia Tech are following him to Fairfax so that is three positions he needs to fill quickly.  Justin Young of National Hoops Report and Fox Sports says Hewitt has hired Chris Kreider of Georgia Southern as his first assistant.  Kreider worked with Hewitt as an admin at Georgia Tech is described by Young as "a star in waiting". Kreider is a labeled as excellent recruiter and will hopefully help fill the void of losing Chris Caputo. 

You may have read this elsewhere over the weekend but both incoming 2011 recruits, Corey Edwards and Vaughn Gray are honoring their intents to play at George Mason next season.

The National Hoops Report had a Q & A with Hewitt, check it out here.

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Breaking down the Paul Hewitt hire

Still hard to believe we will be seeing a different head coach on the sidelines next season.  The Jim Larranaga era is over and the Paul Hewitt era is about to begin. I'm going to start by saying I like the hire, and I think this is the best case scenario that Tom O'Connor could have brought to Fairfax all things considered. NCAA basketball props found at BetUS would have you think guys like Jeff Jones being brought in made me really wonder where they were going with this hire but at the end of the day we have a head coach with both mid-major and BCS experience.  He is known as a great recruiter, so much so that some media refer to it as over-recruiting during his time at Georgia Tech. Losing players to the NBA often is not something any coach at George Mason has ever had to deal with and Hewitt dealt with it a lot during his last few seasons in the ACC.  I won't sugar coat his falling out at Georgia Tech, he was given a $7.2 million buyout for a reason. Some coaches need a change of scenery and a new opportunity. I'm sure the George Mason administration is hoping his mid-major and ACC experience will be a perfect fit for them in the CAA. We'll have to wait and see.

Why Paul Hewitt is a good hire: 

-Despite his recent struggles at Georgia Tech he's still a coach that had mid-major success of going to the NCAA tournament and also took a BCS team to the national championship game.  That's a pretty impressive resume to bring into the CAA.

-George Mason is expected to be a strong team again next season with high expectations, they needed a coach who could take on this pressure.  Mason fans will be expected big things for this team next season regardless of the coaching change.  Hewitt is a better candidate to handle this than a young assistant with no head coaching experience.  

-Hewitt is an excellent recruiter and has dealt with a wide variety of talent. Remember that this guy did coach Chris Bosh and a number of other NBA players. Having recruiting success for both mid-major and a conference like the ACC is a valuable asset and certainly would be hard to come by from any other candidate they could have brought in.  

-Hewitt runs a motion offense with an emphasis on guard play, similar to what we have been seeing for years under Jim Larranaga. The emphasis on the guards will play into the strengths of what George Mason has already and should make the transition easier for the players.

Some concerns about the hire:

-While he has some nice highlights on his resume the fact remains that he had one season where he had a winning record in ACC play during his time at Georgia Tech. That was the year they went to the national championship game. His overall 189-160 at Georgia Tech doesn't quite wow you and he has only made the NCAA tournament three times in his last seven season.

-Local media in Atlanta said that "positive energy hasn't existed around Georgia Tech's basketball program for the past few years". Not exactly encouraging news to read for a guy that is replacing Jim Larranaga; who was a constant beam of positive energy in Fairfax.

-The same Atlanta writer notes that Hewitt did not respond well to criticism and often comes off as a very paranoid person.  Critics won't be as tough on him in Fairfax but this team doesn't make the NCAA tournament or be in the running for the CAA crown he'll get some flack.  At this point can he handle more criticism if things start off slow?

-John Feinstein wrote yesterday that "Hewitt is never going to become the kind of cult figure Larranaga became at GMU". Some of the Mason nation will need time to get used to this transition. A large portion of the fan base only knows Jim Larranaga as the programs head coach and ambassador. You have to hope that the difference in personalities between Hewitt and Larranaga won't hurt the fan base as a whole.


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