At 6-foot-11, junior Joseph Katuka is the tallest member of the GW men's basketball team, but for much of his GW career, the center's production has not kept pace with his height.
Over the past five games, however, Katuka's production has begun to look more like his potential. Katuka posted a team-best 15 points Wednesday night in GW's loss at home to Saint Joseph's, a career-high for the Nigerian native. In the six games since the Colonials' win on the road at Fordham Feb. 13, Katuka has improved both his points and rebounds per game by 3.6 and 4.1 per game, respectively. He also posted a career-high in rebounds during that stretch, grabbing 14 boards a week ago in the Colonials' win over La Salle.
Katuka said his offensive success Wednesday night was a result of an effort by his team to get him the ball inside.
"Basically it's the gameplan," Katuka said of his scoring performance against the Hawks. "Coach emphasized them looking for me inside, so I think that's why I was more successful, because I got more touches. That was our game plan, to just go through me because they were playing right behind me."
GW head coach Karl Hobbs was particularly impressed with Katuka's performance Wednesday night.
"I thought he was just magnificent," Hobbs said. "He allowed us to put ourselves in a position to be in the game, and I thought tonight, once again, he was just terrific. The guy was a one-man show at one point. He was the one guy that could score."
Perhaps not coincidentally, Katuka's improved play late in the season has come as his team has peaked, winning four of its previous five games before dropping Wednesday's contest. Less obvious, although important enough to merit mention from Hobbs, has been Katuka's ability to stay out of foul trouble of late, something that the GW big man has struggled with at times this season. With Katuka on the floor and not on the bench, Hobbs said that the Colonials have benefited from being able to look to their center for more of their points.
"We actively have been trying to go to Joe," Hobbs said. "He's obviously our best inside scorer. I think he's really starting to settle down and he's kind of peaking at the right time, which is what you want. He went through a stretch there where he was really struggling a little bit, getting in foul trouble and things like that, but he's really settling down. He's playing very, very well right now."
With his team preparing to enter its first Atlantic 10 tournament since 2007, Hobbs pointed to Katuka's inside presence as critical to GW's success. Despite the praise from his coach, the third-year Colonial said that although the points were nice, being a top rebounder more consistently is his top priority.
"To me, it's not about my scoring. I think I just need to be more consistent with my rebounding. That's what my team needs me to do," Katuka said. "If I rebound more I think we'll be more successful. Basically, it's not about the scoring, it's about me being aggressive on the boards."