A trio of men’s basketball freshmen will try to use a combination of height, strength and confidence to make up for their inexperience at the college basketball level.
Eleven inches separates the shortest first-year player from the tallest and the three players hold various positions on the court – but together, forwards Marcus Littles and Mezie Offurum and guard Shandon Brown bring a much-needed combination of energy, size and versatility to the court for GW.
Head coach Maurice Joseph said the three rookies’ skills play into the team’s uptempo strategy, which will be a hallmark of the team’s showing this season.
Joseph said each freshman fills a hole left by a former player and they will begin to solidify their roles in an effort to rebuild over the next couple years.
“We’ve added pieces that we’ve lacked,” Joseph said. “We’re continuing to put the pieces together to really ensure that our future is set up for success.”
At 6 feet 9 inches, Littles plays larger than his name implies. Tied as the tallest rostered Colonial, Littles fulfills the role of a true big man – a position the program has not seen since 2016-graduate forward Kevin Larsen, Joseph said.
He will be key for the Colonials in filling the rebounding gap left by the departure of guard Yuta Watanabe and forwards Bo Zeigler and Patrick Steeves.
“He’s a huge body, we need someone like that,” sophomore guard Terry Nolan Jr. said. “He’s kind of like Arnaldo Toro in a sense but he’s just more filled.”
Littles was a top-150 prospect out of high school, when he led his Neumann Goretti team in Philadelphia to four state titles. He averaged 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game as a senior.
The freshman sat out the team’s Oct. 28 exhibition against Catholic with an ankle injury, but will be available for the team’s season opener against Stony Brook Tuesday, according to an athletic department spokesman.
The squad struggled to rebound against the Cardinals, which Joseph said could be remedied by Littles’ presence on the floor.
“My goal is to hopefully rebound to the best of my ability, and be the strong presence in the paint that we need,” Littles said.
Coming in nearly a foot shorter at 5 feet 10 inches, what Brown lacks in size, he makes up for with energy and confidence. Joseph said although he doesn’t clear 6 feet, Brown displays charisma on the court and “thinks he’s 6 feet 9 inches and 240.”
“The energy is something you can always control, whether you’re playing good or bad,” Brown said. “Other guys feed off of it too, then you start to see guys that aren’t as outgoing start to show some emotion and it’s sort of a chain reaction.”
The Boston native was regarded as one of the top prospects in the area and averaged 17.7 points, 14 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game during his senior year at New Hampton School. The guard led his team to a championship and multiple playoff runs.
Joseph said Brown is one of the most “mentally-ready” freshmen he has ever seen and his leadership on the court earned him captain votes from his teammates before playing a single college game, Joseph said.
“He’s tough as nails and he’s a guy that kind of reflects my personality of what I want our program to represent, how I want to play,” Joseph said.
To round out the new freshman class, Offurum – a 6-foot-6-inch forward – will be expected to use his ability to shoot well, excel in transition and defend down the line to become a dynamic threat on the court.
“I know coach brought me here to be an athlete wherever we need help and to just fill that spot and make up for any deficiencies that the team is having,” Offurum said.
As a senior at Georgetown Prep in North Bethesda, Md., Offurum averaged 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and helped his school win its second consecutive Interstate Athletic Conference title.
His combination of size and athleticism has drawn Joseph to compare the first-year player to 2018-graduate Watanabe, who made his NBA debut with the Memphis Grizzlies last month.
“Mezie Offurum is one of the more talented freshmen we’ve had here in a while, extremely versatile, he can play in the open court, shoot the ball, and play and guard multiple positions,” Joseph said.
According to their teammates, this year’s class came into the offseason with the same determination and toughness as the rest of the roster, allowing them to fit in right away.
“If they come onto the court and put in the work and have that fight and grit then it’ll be a good fit into our culture and we’ll have that platform of fight, grit, being great,” sophomore guard Justin Mazzulla said. “I think it’ll be really good for us.”
This article appeared in the November 5, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.