by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
In a conference as talented as the Big East, one of the toughest tasks is for the coaches to choose a Preaseason Player of the Year before a single game is played. Commanding that respect is an honor, and this year that honor went to Austin Freeman of Georgetown.
So far Freeman has handled the expectations well. His Hoyas are ranked ninth in the country with a 9-1 record, and he leads the team with 18.9 ppg. At a school that has so much tradition, Freeman and his teammates are off to a good start towards trying to hang another Final Four banner.
With the Big East season just a few weeks away, Freeman talked with SLAM about this year’s Hoyas, the national following Georgetown receives and learning to balance basketball with his diabetes.
SLAM: Do you feel the team is coming together the way you thought it would?
Austin Freeman: I think we are. We’re gelling really good. Our chemistry is there right now. It could be a little better, but right now we feel we’re here and ready for anything that comes our way.
SLAM: What’s the most difficult thing about trying to replace a player like Greg Monroe?
AF: We all know Greg was a really good player. He did a lot for us, especially passing. We knew when he had the ball that he was looking for us. Having him down there made things a little bit easier for everyone on the floor.
SLAM: You’re almost a rarity these days, having a successful career and staying all four years. What do you gain from having that extra experience?
AF: Just growing up. Being more mature. Going through the rigors of the season. Just knowing what you have to do to be successful.
SLAM: The Big East is arguably the best conference in America. What does it mean to you to be singled out as its Preseason Player of the Year?
AF: It’s an honor. It’s a real big honor, but I also don’t want to let it get to my head. I also know that it really matters what happens at the end of the season anyway. Right now I know it’s a big honor, but I also know that I have to be prepared for anything that comes my way. I have a target on my back.
SLAM: You’re about to head into conference play. How does the level of intensity change once you start Big East play?
AF: We have to be a little bit more focused because in the Big East everybody knows what you’re doing. We have to pay more attention to detail because we know that any little mistake could decide a game.
SLAM: What’s the toughest Big East venue to play in?
AF: All of them. Just playing Georgetown is a big game for everybody and everybody comes ready to play.
SLAM: Is there one opponent out there that you know there is going to be a little something extra going into a game against?
AF: From Pitt to Cuse to Nova to down the line in the Big East, we know that we just have to come ready to play everybody because everybody is coming out to beat you.
SLAM: Georgetown is one of those schools that has a national following. Do you see that when you go out on the road?
AF: We know that. When we went to Missouri in a hostile environment that was supposed to be a neutral site. We had people coming to support us so we know.
SLAM: Last March you were diagnosed with diabetes. Now that you have had an entire offseason to deal with that, how have you been able to balance that with basketball?
AF: I worked out. I have to take insulin shots four times a day. I still pretty much do what I want to do, but I have to manage what I want to do so I don’t go overboard with anything.
SLAM: You found out about that right before the Big East tournament. How tough was it to learn you had this at such an important time in your season?
AF: It was tough at first. Just knowing that I was still going to be able to play basketball and get on with my regular life, I was fine after that. But at the beginning it was very tough.
SLAM: Athletes such as Adam Morrison and Jay Cutler have diabetes. Have you reached out to them to talk about dealing with it?
AF: I’ve contacted them, but they haven’t gotten back to me, but I’ve talked to John Saunders, who has it, from ESPN.