Jessie Govan chose Georgetown prior to his 2015-16 freshman campaign, but the center’s transition to upperclassman couldn’t have been more ideal with Patrick Ewing becoming his head coach in April 2017.
Ponds was voted the Big East Conference’s Preseason Player of the Year for the upcoming 2018-19 season, while Govan was named to the Preseason All-Conference First Team.
As a sophomore, All-Conference First Teamer Ponds led the Big East with 21.6 points per game, was second in steals at 2.1 – only behind teammate Justin Simon at 2.3 – and fifth in assists with 4.7. At 17.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per contest, Govan, then a junior, is the other current Big East player who averaged a double-double last season.
Both returned to school after submitting their respective names into the 2018 NBA Draft pool, and both return with legendary backing, refined goals and high expectations.
Ponds in particular was a bit taken aback by being voted Preseason Player of the Year, but only momentarily.
“I didn’t think that far, it surprised me,” he said during Big East Media Day on Thursday at Madison Square Garden. “It’s definitely a blessing, but it’s nothing to be satisfied with.”
With the addition of Mustapha Heron, along with the team receiving votes in the Associated Press’ Preseason Poll, the Red Storm arrives to 2018-19 with their sights set on making another jump in the Big East, perhaps reaching the NCAA Tournament.
“The first two seasons it were pretty much like, ‘St. John’s, yeah, they’ve got talent, but it’s not going to last through the whole season,’” Ponds said. “The perception has definitely changed.
“I feel like a lot of teams definitely aren’t going to overlook us anymore,” he added. “They’re going to really prepare for us. Having that bullseye on our back, we’ve just got to be ready.”
For Govan, now a senior, the pressure of becoming the next great Hoya big man is only magnified playing under a former Georgetown great in Ewing.
“The first few days he was there, it was like, ‘Wow, this is Patrick Ewing, he’s a legend and all that,’” said Govan, a Queens native and product of Wings Academy in the Bronx. “I embrace it, though. He wants me to be better than him. I’ve stolen a few moves from him.”
The 6-foot-10 center insists the growing process has been favorable, while adding that the team has March Madness on their minds.
“I think this year all the guys are hungry and all the guys are ready to make some noise and get Georgetown back on the map,” he said. “We’re ready to make that next step and get back to March Madness.
“I feel like there’s a lot of people sleeping on us,” he added. “That’s fine, that’s cool.”
Both coaches also recognize that their star player’s need to take another step forward if they hope to find greater success this season.
“Jessie is a talented big and I do expect a lot out of him,” said Ewing. “If we expect to do anything in the Big East, he is going to have to be successful for us.”
For Mullin, it’s even more simple.
“Those first two years, we didn’t go walking into many games where we were favorites,” he said. “Now we’ve got this experienced group, what’s happened in the past doesn’t really matter.
“In the history of basketball, better players make better coaches and they usually win more games,” Mullin added. “I don’t want to get overly simple, but that’s kind of where it’s at.”