WASHINGTON – The nickname “Hollywood” seems an odd fit for anything associated with Georgetown basketball. The Hoyas like to keep things close to the vest, with coach and players sticking to a script that is hardly Spielberg-worthy.
But along has come Hollis Thompson, the fresh-faced West Coast sophomore trying to find his niche in the rugged Big East. He’s taking acting classes. He has a different fashion sense. He has a habit of stroking his chin with just a hint of flair – a gesture that prompted coach John Thompson III to spill the beans about the nickname during a recent postgame news conference.
“Did you see that?” the coach said.
Hollis Thompson is unique in a few other ways. He enrolled in Georgetown a semester early, skipping his final months of high school to get acclimated to college life. And, most importantly from a basketball standpoint, he hasn’t ruffled a feather about his demotion from starting lineup to sixth man for the No. 13 Hoyas (18-5, 7-4), who have won six straight.
“The most important thing is we’ve been winning,” Hollis Thompson said, “so how could I complain?”
It also helps that he’s better suited for his new role. Three games ago, John Thompson inserted Nate Lubick as the starting power forward, giving the frontcourt a more bruising presence to supplement Julian Vaughn. Hollis Thompson began coming off the bench, using his versatility as an inside-outside scoring threat while the starters are taking a breather.
“One thing he gives, one thing I wanted, is he gives us the scoring punch off the bench,” John Thompson said. “He knows we need him, and he knows more often than not he’s going to be out there at the end.”
Hollis Thompson’s minutes have dropped a bit, but he scored 15 points against St. John’s in his first game as a reserve and he hit the 3-pointer with 2 minutes to play that gave Georgetown the lead for good in Monday’s win over Louisville.
“Not saying he wasn’t good in the starting role,” guard Jason Clark said, “but coming off the bench has helped him a lot.”
OK, but what about the Hollywood thing? In this day and age, is it still that big of an adjustment when a kid from Los Angeles goes to the nation’s capital?
“They laugh and call me ‘Hollywood,’ but it is a big difference coming from L.A. to Washington, D.C., especially to a place like Georgetown,” Thompson said. “I didn’t think there was a difference, but when I got here I learned there is a big difference.
“A lot of things that fly, that are normal on the West Coast, are looked upon differently over here.”
Clark said the “Hollywood” nickname is in use all the time, especially at practice.
“It’s definitely appropriate,” Clark said. “If you see him dress, you would definitely call him Hollywood. He has his shoes, his pants, his outfits, skinny jeans, he’s so Hollywood.”
Sure enough, when he was talking about getting used to snow, Thompson’s first complaint was, “It’s not good for my shoes.”
Because he arrived a semester early in 2009, Thompson refers to himself as a “super sophomore.” John Thompson said the head start helped the player’s basketball development, but the coach felt the experiment had mixed results.
“Looking back at it now, being quite honest, it’s hard,” the coach said, “to give up part of your senior year to come into an environment in the second semester, where everyone on campus, not just the team, has their routines. He might not admit that, but that was very difficult, and so much so that I don’t know if given the same set of circumstances whether we would do it again.”
Whatever growing pains there were seemed to have subsided. Hollis Thompson says he might even try out for a school play, adding a bit more to his Hollywood image.
Even the coach is happy to keep playing along. When he noticed that Hollis Thompson was wearing a sleeveless shirt while talking to the media, John Thompson called to him across the room.
“Did you take off your jersey off,” the coach said, “so they could see your muscles on purpose?”