The late sportswriter Ralph Wiley once observed that Georgetown didn't produce point guards, but "point rocks"--sturdy and solid. Chief among these was John Duren, its greatest point guard of the modern era.
"He is the ideal," John Thompson said of Duren. "His judgment in the heat of play is like a coach going over game films in slow motion. He's totally unselfish and honest--I can't think of one thing on a basketball floor he can't do."
Duren was a consensus high school All-America at Washington's Dunbar HS, the chief playmaker for the undefeated Crimson Tide team of 1976, ranked #1 in the nation. Only a year removed from the arrival of Al Dutch, Duren's signing confirmed that John Thompson could recruit major local talent, something his predecessors had failed to do for many years.
For his freshman year, Duren began as an understudy to guards Derrick Jackson and Mike Riley, but once he entered the starting lineup at mid season, he was a fixture in the Georgetown lineup for the next three-plus seasons. Duren proved himself not only a fine shooter, but a court general of the highest order. His passing skills and overall court leadership elevated the entire Georgetown offense, and by 1977 the Hoyas' shooting percentage had increased from 46 percent to just under 50 percent for the season. Duren finished fourth in scoring, with a season high 19 against Boston College and a
15 point average down the stretch, when an ankle injury sidelined him for two games late in the season.
A healthy Duren returned in 1978 and proved his offensive skill as well. The MVP of the ECAC Holiday Classic for a combined 22 point per game effort, Duren was the regional player of the week three times during the season, scoring 20 or more points 10 times and in double figures in 27 of 31 games. Coupled with his 3.8 assists per game, Duren was a major factor for a Georgetown team which approached the end of the season with a 21-5 mark.
At season's end, health problems forced leading scorer Derrick Jackson to the sidelines, and the Hoyas struggled to adjust. Duren stepped up with some of the best games of his career: 23 points against VCU in the ECAC tournament, followed by 22 points and 11 assists versus Virginia in the NIT, 17 versus Dayton, 26 versus N.C. State, and 23 versus Rutgers, leading the Hoyas to the brink of the NIT finals. At season's end, Duren was named as to the honorable mention All-America team, the first underclassmen so honored since Jim Barry in 1963.
Duren traveled overseas for an ECAC all-star team in the summer of 1978, and returned as the unquestioned leader of the Georgetown backcourt. He played a then-record 1,024 minutes on the court in 1978-79 (35.3 minutes a game, with eight complete games), averaging 14.6 points and 5.4 assists. For the year, he shot just under 50 percent from the field and 83 percent from the line, leading the time in nine different statistical categories. Duren's court sense and the ability to set up teammates for the high percentage shot was in evidence all season, as the Hoyas shot 51% from the field and
posted a 24-4 regular season record.
A highlight of the season was Duren's 22 point, six assist game in the home finale against Holy Cross; a week later, his 17 point, six assist and seven steal effort helped the G-men to an upset win over Syracuse in the ECAC final. Despite the absence of Tom Scates in the middle, Duren and Hoyas wore down the Orangemen at the line, connecting on 30 free throws to Syracuse's six.
Duren's finest days were at the helm of the 1979-80 team, perhaps the greatest Georgetown team not to make it to the Final Four. The "Heart Attack Hoyas" were a never-say-die bunch who thrilled fans from November deep into March. The team won seven games by five points or less, conversely, of the team's six losses that season, four came within the last five seconds or in overtime.
At season's end, Duren's 12.3 points per game were respectable enough, but that only told part of the story. He destroyed the Georgetown assist record by posting 228 assists in 1980, or 7.1 a game. He played a team high 1,164 minutes, without a single game lost to a foul-out. The consistency in the Hoyas' game plan throughout the inaugural Big East season rested with Duren, as his passing and poise saw the Hoyas increase its shooting to a record 53% from the field and carry a 16 game win streak to the brink of the Final Four. At year's end Duren was named All-Big East and honorable mention
Had it not been for contemporary names like Isiah Thomas and Mark Aguirre, perhaps John Duren would have received more national attention for this play. The recognition due him was, in part, received when he became the first Georgetown player ever selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the Utah Jazz. Following an injury early in his pro career, Duren played in parts of three seasons before returning to Washington, where he resides today.