ATLANTA - For Patrick Ewing Jr., transferring from Indiana to Georgetown required an upgrade in behavior.
"We're really clean-cut," Ewing said with a laugh. "It was a surprise to me when I first got here, because being at one school where you see one thing, and you come here and see a totally different thing."
Georgetown is in the Final Four, but the Hoyas rank near the bottom when it comes to salacious stories off the court. They come across as men behaving goodly - a coach's dream scenario that's almost too good to be true - a group that truly functions as a team and keeps each other in line.
The tone is set by the four juniors who have been the backbone of the team since there were freshman: Big East player of the year Jeff Green, center Roy Hibbert, point guard Jonathan Wallace and reserve swingman Tyler Crawford.
"I think me, Jon, Jeff, Roy, we've taken pride in that in trying to establish what this program once was," Crawford said. "Jon and I were talking before, we think it's a blessing that we're all together for something special, because none of us do anything extra special, like drink or smoke or stuff like that."
Only the players themselves know how genuine their words are, but their play on the court reflects a do-the-right-thing camaraderie. Green can do just about anything he wants on the court, but his favorite play is the backdoor pass for an assist. Hibbert is 7-foot-2 and could make his entire living in the paint, yet he eagerly talks about improving his perimeter defense. Crawford didn't complain when he lost his starting job because of illness.
And, so far at least, the whole team has stayed out of trouble. Even the tattoo on freshman center Vernon Macklin's right biceps looks a bit out of place, and he guessed that only two or three of his teammates have one as well.
"You trying to jinx us?" coach John Thompson III asked about the lack of off-the-court gossip. "No, we have a good group of kids. That's because of their parents and the people who help shape and mold who they are - I wish I could take some credit for it."
Whether he likes it or not, Thompson does get credit - first and foremost from his own players. When asked how the team got to be so straight-as-an arrow, Wallace answered: "We have to be."
"With coach Thompson, you'd better not mess around, or you're going to get us all in trouble," Wallace said. "Everybody just tries to do things the right way. That's how he taught us, the whole system and the whole program. That's just how we go about doing things."
Presented with those words, Thompson acknowledged he looks for a certain type of person as well as a certain type of player when he's recruiting. It might be the trait he most has in common with his Hall of Fame father: Both have little tolerance for fooling around.
"They know that," Thompson said. "It's funny to me in many ways, there's natural discussions and questions that compare and contrast between Pops and myself. Our public persona may be different, but the results that we want and how we want to go about it, how we want to represent this institution, are the same. And the guys know it. I don't have to yell or scream, but they know they'd better do what they're supposed to do. And they do."
Ewing didn't go into detail about the differences between Indiana and Georgetown, but his teammates got a good laugh when they heard he had described them as "clean-cut."
"We're not the type to act out of our norm," Green said. "This is how we are, on and off the court. Pat comes from Indiana, you look at him and look at me, he's just a different guy. ... I'm not going to try to sit here and train him and make him a better person. He knows what it takes to become a better person, it's just going to take time for him to do that."
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