March 18, 2010
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Georgetown guard Austin Freeman has changed his diet and now regularly checks his blood sugar since he's been diagnosed with diabetes.
He's also become an inspiration.
Fans, friends and others with the disease have reached out via letters, e-mail or a kind word to support Freeman and let him know how much they're rooting for him.
"Just knowing that I have people out there that support me and care, it just keeps me going," Freeman said.
Freeman has kept the Hoyas going and has them playing some of their best basketball of the season as they enter the NCAA tournament. They won three games in the Big East tournament before falling to West Virginia 60-58 in the title game.
The hot streak helped catapult the Hoyas (23-10) into the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional. They play Mid-American Conference tournament champion Ohio (21-14), a 14 seed in the tourney for the first time since 2005.
Asked what he knew about the Bobcats, center Greg Monroe said, "They won a conference championship. They're here."
The Hoyas will try to end Ohio's ride into March on Thursday, and Freeman could play a big role. He was thought to have a stomach virus when he missed a game March 1 against West Virginia. He did not start and his minutes were limited in the previous game.
It turned out to be much more serious than a stomach bug.
Freeman, a junior guard, had diabetes and the whole way he approached basketball was about to change. He checks his blood sugar before, during and after every practice. As a precaution, a doctor from the university's hospital is attending Freeman's practices and games for the rest of the season.
It's not easy or convenient, but he has no choice.
"It's a little change, but I've gotten used to it," Freeman said. "I have to, if I want to keep playing."
Coach John Thompson III keeps an eye on Freeman at practice. As long as Freeman's blood sugars are monitored, he'll be able to play.
Once he returned to the lineup, Freeman played like there was nothing wrong with him. He was a second-team All Big East selection and led the Hoyas with 16.7 points - 19.5 in conference games. He averaged 15.2 points and is shooting 46.8 percent from the floor since he was diagnosed.
Lakers forward Adam Morrison and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler are among the athletes with diabetes who Freeman has attempted to contact.
Ohio faces a tall task against Georgetown, but history shows the program shouldn't be taken lightly. The Bobcats put a scare into eventual national champion Florida before losing 67-62 a few years ago.
Ohio was given little chance of winning the MAC title when the tournament began, then capped a stunning run with an overtime win against defending champion Akron to earn the league's automatic bid.
So the Bobcats are full of surprises.
"Every time our guys take the court, they have that belief," Ohio coach John Groce said.
Groce led Ohio to the tournament in his second season after he was Ohio State coach Thad Matta's top assistant. He had been the top assistant under Ohio State coach Thad Matta for the past four years. He also worked under Matta at Xavier University and at Butler University.
Groce said there are differences from the way Thompson constructed this year's Hoyas compared to the one Ohio State beat in the Final Four in 2007.
"He's certainly made some adaptations that really fit his personnel and make them difficult to defend," he said.
Especially difficult to stop are the trio of Freeman, Monroe and Chris Wright. They've scored 1,554 points, or, 64 percent of Georgetown's total this season. Georgetown's 49.8-percent shooting from the floor was fourth nationally.
And they've done it all without a single senior on the roster.
"Things just seem to be working," Thompson said. "That's hard to say when your last game is a loss. But leading up to that, I think we're at a good place right now."