Jessie Govan, Georgetown men’s basketball’s leading scorer, headed into the locker room at halftime on his senior day with zero points. In front of the largest home crowd of the season at Capital One Arena, Govan went 0-for-7 from the field. Seton Hall led, 28-24.
“I was missing shots, turning the ball over, and just not playing like myself,” Govan says after the game. “But I had to try and make an impact on the rest of the game.”
An announced 13,753 people gathered on Saturday to watch as the Hoyas honored four seniors, Govan, Trey Mourning, Kaleb Johnson, and Greg Malinowski, before their final regular season home game. A win would help Patrick Ewing’s team keep its slim NCAA tournament hopes alive. The Hoyas have not reached the tournament since 2015. While his star freshmen teammates have often received the attention this season, Govan has been a steadying presence for a team on the rise.
The big man came out of the locker room on a mission. He finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, and clutch buckets to lead the Hoyas to a 77-71 double-overtime win.
“After that final buzzer went off, it just hit me, it’s my last game here,” Govan says. “I just wanted to put the game away for my team … It feels good to end it that way.”
Adds Ewing, “To me, that was Jessie’s best game of his career … If it wasn’t for his points, rebounds, and timely blocks, we wouldn’t have won.”
A lot has changed for Govan during his four years at Georgetown.
Back in 2015, the 6-foot-10 New York native committed to a program led by John Thompson III that was in the process of making the NCAA tournament five times in the previous six years. That season, they grabbed a No. 4 seed in the big dance after going 20-9 in the regular season. While their round of 32 exit was disappointing, the future looked promising with Govan and fellow four-star recruit and D.C. native Marcus Derrickson joining a talented returning core.
Few things went according to plan.
Picked to finish second in the Big East and expected to be a top-25 mainstay, Georgetown lost to Radford in double overtime in Govan’s debut, a shocking loss that signaled the decline and eventual demise of the JTIII era at Georgetown. Thompson was fired the following year.
Govan told Rivals in 2014 that he came to Georgetown “because it’s a big man school,” but he never could have imagined that the most famous of those big men would become his head coach. He found that in Ewing, who the school hired in 2017 to right the ship.
Though the move was panned by some as a continuation of the Thompson era due to Ewing’s close relationship with former coach John Thompson Jr., the Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer returned to his alma mater with more than his NBA credentials. He worked in the league as an assistant coach for most of the 15 years since retiring as a player, first in D.C. for the Wizards, then for the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, and Charlotte Hornets.
Under Ewing’s tutelage, Govan has thrived. This season he is averaging 18.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He quickly became a centerpiece for a rebuilding team and is a valued locker room leader.
Despite garnering some interest from the NBA, the then-junior decided to return, citing “unfinished business.” Derrickson left after his junior season and is now on a two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors.
This year, Govan is on track to graduate and has been an invaluable part of the team that is 18-11 with two road games remaining. The Hoyas are on the bubble looking in on the NCAA tournament. They’ll also have a shot next week in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. But even if that bubble bursts, the program appears to be on the right trajectory.
If Ewing is able to bring Georgetown back to its glory days of 2008 or the 1980s, Govan will be part of the reason why.