D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera sports an exotic name and a complex game. The Georgetown freshman pops with scoring confidence yet is hardly one-dimensional. The breadth of the compact guard's skill set has become apparent now that more minutes are coming his way.
His coach already knew about his multifaceted ways. Smith-Rivera's advanced decision-making with the ball in hand is what drew John Thompson III into dogged pursuit of the coveted recruit. It's partly why the Indiana native's role has shifted from limited reserve to prominent option heading into the Hoyas clash with No. 5 Louisville on Saturday.
Asked what stood out when he began courting the talented guard, Thompson said, "His ability to score yet be a passer.
"That may sound simple, but a lot of guys are programmed to shoot, shoot, shoot, me, me, me. That's not always a bad thing. Some guys get programmed, 'okay, let me get other guys a shot.' They don't have to be guarded. [D'Vauntes'] understanding, his ability to be a scorer and yet at the same time, [he] helps make his teammates better."
Smith-Rivera's game has certainly improved over the last four games in the wake of Greg Whittington's suspension. After dazzling from long range in his collegiate debut with 19 points while making all four of his 3-point attempts, the 6-foot-3 guard largely served in background role, struggling mightily with his usually reliable shot in the process. During his first two Big East games for the Hoyas (13-4, 3-3), Smith-Rivera missed six of seven shots as his minutes dipped.
After a 0-2 conference start and before facing St. John's, Georgetown announced Whittington's academic ineligibility. Maybe it's the basketball version of the Butterfly Effect, but not having the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder led to the early-rising Smith-Rivera spreading his wings.
"Greg is a wonderful rebounder, he can score, he's very athletic. All those aspects, I thought I had to better my game," Smith-Rivera said before Thursday's practice. "I get up every morning at 6 a.m., come in, get shots, work on my body and try to stay as conditioned as I can because I knew I'd be playing more minutes."
The de-facto sixth-man with Jabril Trawick entering the starting lineup, Smith-Rivera picked up the rebounding slack with 10 against St. John's on Jan. 12. Against the Red Storm he also doled out four assists, a number he matched or exceeded in each of the next two games.
The vaunted shooting touch eventually reemerged. He drained 5 of 7 shots for 16 points in Saturday's loss at South Florida. Back in his home state for Monday's matchup at Notre Dame, Smith-Rivera scored 14 points with 10 coming after halftime when the Hoyas took control for the decisive win.
"I had to figure out the offense, kind of learn my role," Smith-Rivera said. "Defensively is what helped me along the way this season. I think once I became more active on defense, I knew what I was capable on offense."
Not that anyone believes his point-producing faith ever left.
"He's never lacked confidence," Thompson said of his freshman guard.
That may not have always been the case for the Hoyas this season especially in those games where the offense sputtered and stalled even with Whittington around, though it's on the defensive end is where Thompson felt the absence could hurt most. Without the lengthy forward, Georgetown has used more man-to-man concepts yet maintained its stingy ways.
Over the last four games, the Hoyas surrendered an average of 56.0 points. Each of the opponents shot under 40 percent from the floor, including Notre Dame, which entered the week as the most accurate team in the conference.
"Our defense for the most part has been good all year, but I think they did an outstanding job covering and helping each other. It was a selfless defense and you have to play that way against Notre Dame, against most of the teams in this league," Thompson said.
As for how the Hoyas must play against Louisville, fast, fast, fast. The Rick Pitino coached Cardinals (16-3, 4-2) average 75.7 points per game, pressure full court and send in waves of players including former George Mason starter Luke Hancock.
The backcourt of Russ Smith, the Big East's third-leading scorer at 18.7 points, and the playmaking Peyton Siva fuels the relentless attack, one that has come up short in consecutive losses.
"We can't control the fact that we've lost two in a row," Thompson said. "It's not that fact they've lost two in a row, but it's who they are and what they do. We have to handle their pressure. Those two guards are terrific. They pose a lot of problems."
After reviewing Georgetown's recent games, perhaps that is how Pitino views the Hoyas freshman guard. For the record, Smith-Rivera confirmed that "DSR" is indeed a viable nickname. No matter how he's addressed or how his emergence came to pass, having the guard with the complex game playing more minutes is helping all involved.