After six seasons under Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85), the Georgetown University men’s basketball team enters a new era under Head Coach Ed Cooley, who will lead a transfer and walk-on-heavy team as he tries to re-instill a winning culture in the program.
The Hoyas unofficially kicked off their season with the Blue vs. Gray Scrimmage at McDonough Arena on Oct. 27. Ready to usher in the new era of Georgetown hoops, fans packed the stands to watch the scrimmage, which, unlike in previous years, was open to the public.
Cooley playfully engaged with the crowd often during the scrimmage, using a microphone to introduce himself and the team before tipoff, inviting students to the court for a series of challenges throughout the game and highlighting the necessary role the student body will play in the team’s success.
“We need the students,” Cooley told The Hoya after the Blue vs. Gray Scrimmage. “This is your time. This is your school. This is your team. And I think your energy and enthusiasm will help us with our process of growth.”
Following the departure of Ewing and the hiring of Cooley, the team picked up seven scholarship players in the transfer portal and recruited two players from the high school Class of 2023 to make up for the 10 players who transferred out of the program in the offseason.
With so many new players, one of the foremost objectives of the past offseason was to build chemistry before the regular season officially tips off Nov. 7.
The team has organized multiple team bonding events like attending a Drake concert during the summer to strengthen cohesion among the players. In just eight months with the program, Cooley has had a marked impact on his players.
Redshirt first-year guard Rowan Brumbaugh said Cooley was instrumental in establishing a healthy culture in a brand-new locker room.
“Cooley’s a great entertainer,” Brumbaugh, who transferred from the University of Texas, told The Hoya after the scrimmage. “He’s so good at controlling a room, entertaining, getting us to buy into his system and coaching style.”
Brumbaugh, the No. 95 prospect in his class in the ESPN rankings, will see significant backup minutes if not starting. Until then, he said he enjoys riffing with teammates.
“Locker rooms are usually hilarious, but these guys are the funniest locker room I’ve ever met,” Brumbaugh told The Hoya. “Jay Heath and Ryan Mutumbo go after it every day. I’m not funny, so I just laugh.”
Georgetown’s schedule is far from a cakewalk — the Big East is arguably the best conference in the country, and the Hoyas will have stiff interconference competition. The University of Connecticut Huskies are the reigning national champions and sit at No. 6 in the preseason poll, while Marquette University and Creighton University stand at No. 5 and No. 8, respectively.
Since key NCAA rule changes in 2021, the transfer portal has morphed college basketball into an annual flurry of new rosters, where a squad can be subpar one year and playing well into March the next.
Therefore, when Cooley took the helm on the Hilltop, transfers were top of mind for Hoya fans.
The crown jewel of the Hoya’s transfer class is Jayden Epps, a nifty sophomore combo guard who posted an average of 9.5 points on 41.4% from the field and 30.1% from three last season for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Epps said he aims to be a disruptor on both sides of the court this season.
“I just envision me being a point guard, getting shots for me, getting shots for my team,” Epps told The Hoya. “Defensively, I’ll guard whoever coach needs me to guard, being a pest and getting stops.”
Epps will share touches with senior guard Jay Heath, who averaged 12.3 points in 2022-23 and is the lone carryover from last year’s rotation that ended with a 7-25, 2-18 Big East record.
The Hoyas recently suffered a setback as forward Ismael Massoud, a fifth-year transfer from Kansas State University projected to start, broke his hand in a closed scrimmage against the University of Pittsburgh. Massoud, a forward who averaged 5.4 points on 41.8% three-point shooting for a Wildcats team that made the Elite Eight last year, is set to miss six to eight weeks.
Other notable transfers include junior guard Donovan Grant, who walked onto the Hoyas roster after a year at Oregon State University, and junior guard Dontrez Styles from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
With the departures of center Qudus Wahab and power forward Akok Akok, the Hoyas had major question marks at center. Now, minutes at the five position will go to transfer Supreme Cook and Drew Fielder, the only true first-years in the rotation.
Fielder, who ESPN ranked as the No. 20 center in the nation as a senior, was originally committed to Providence College before Cooley’s departure and subsequently followed him to the Hilltop. Cook averaged 13.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game at Fairfield University last season and could be a low-post scoring threat and crucial rebounding factor for Georgetown.
As the Hoyas ramp up for their season opener at Capital One Arena against LeMoyne College on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m., Cooley invited the Georgetown community to share his measured optimism and support their team.
“Do you win first and then be supported, or do you support and then win?” Cooley said. “We’re playing in the No. 1 conference in the country, so it’s going to take us some time. I’m going to need everyone to buckle up, put their seat belt on and let’s go through this journey together.”