Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Hoyas Poised For Another Magical Year

Charles Nailen/The Hoya Junior center Wesley Wilson will be a big part of any success the Hoyas have in the 2001-02 season.

Coming off its most successful season since Allen Iverson’s sophomore campaign, Georgetown has the pieces in place for another NCAA tournament run in 2002. Despite losing four seniors to graduation and transfer of shooting guard Demetrius Hunter, the Hoyas are returning their two leading scorers and have added a trio of talented freshmen.

In what will likely be an off year for the Big East as a whole, No. 14 Georgetown was picked to finish first in the West Division (garnering 12 of 14 first-place votes), with senior point guard Kevin Braswell being named First Team All-Big East and Mike Sweetney named Second Team All-Big East. Preseason accolades do not necessarily translate into success on the court, however, and the Hoyas are a young and inexperienced squad that will need time to develop into the team it is capable of being.

The Rotation

The Hoyas had the luxury of height and depth last season, allowing them to pound away at opponents with a trio of seven-footers and another three 6-foot-8 players. Gone is much of that height, replaced by a quicker, more perimeter-oriented lineup that makes up in talent what it lacks in depth.

Kevin Braswell will continue to direct things on the court, starting at the point for Georgetown for the fourth consecutive year. Backing him up will be freshman Drew Hall, the first true point guard Georgetown has had in recent memory, prompting Head Coach Craig Esherick to say, “I feel more confident about the point guard position than I have in a long time.” Additionally, RaMell Ross (out until mid-January with an injured foot) and freshman Tony Bethel will be able to handle the ball at the point.

The surprising departure of Demetrius Hunter in August left a potential hole at the two-guard, but there are a number of players who can step up in this role. Last season’s starting small forward, sophomore Gerald Riley, started at shooting guard in Georgetown’s first exhibition game, while combo guard Tony Bethel and his deadly long-range shot will likely come off the bench. Braswell will also see time at shooting guard, his natural position, especially if Drew Hall progresses and is able to take over a larger share of ball-handling duties.

Small forward has the potential to be the Hoyas’ deepest position, but this is partially dependent upon the eligibility of talented 6-foot-8 freshman Harvey Thomas: Thomas can not practice or play with the team pending a ruling from the NCAA Clearinghouse. Esherick stated that “he’s in limbo right now. We’re moving in the right direction and I hope it’s going to be resolved soon.”

With or without Thomas, Georgetown returns starting small forward Gerald Riley, juniors Victor Samnick and Courtland Freeman, and sophomore Omari Faulkner. Riley and Samnick, who has added an improved handle and jump shot to his substantial rebounding abilities, will likely see the lion’s share of the minutes with Freeman seeing more time in the frountcourt.

Two words: Michael Sweetney. That’s all you need to know about power forward, as Sweetney forces teams to adjust on defense to keep him in check. He was the Hoyas’ leading scorer and rebounder last year, and when he’s on the bench getting recharged Courtland Freeman steps in as a more-than-capable backup who can play facing the basket (evidenced by his two long-range three pointers in Georgetown’s first exhibition).

The latest in the long and storied tradition of Georgetown centers is junior Wesley Wilson, ready to step into the spotlight after backing up Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje last year. Wilson is very athletic and unusually mobile for his 6-foot-11 size, and has a solid drop step move at the offensive end. Wilson is another in the line of prolific shot-blockers at Georgetown, but needs to work on his positioning and footwork on defense. He is the only true center on the roster, but power forwards Courtland Freeman and Mike Sweetney are both capable of filling in for stretches.

The Schedule

Georgetown’s traditional schedule of Big East bruisers and non-conference cupcakes has dramatically changed over the past few years, and it is more evident now than ever. The Big East is not at its strongest, and it is likely that two of Georgetown’s toughest foes will be found on the December portion of the schedule before conference play begins: UCLA and Virginia, two of Georgetown’s 11 nationally televised games this season.

There are still a few not-so-challenging games on the schedule, however, highlighted by Division III Marymount and Grambling, organ State and Howard. A pair of Southeastern Conference teams are the first major challenges Georgetown will face, Georgia in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic on Nov. 19 and South Carolina on Dec. 6.

Virginia’s visit to MCI on Dec. 20 followed by a trip to Pauley Pavilion nine days later to take on UCLA will provide Georgetown with an accurate measuring stick as the Hoyas head into Big East play. A pair of wins in these games would be huge for the program, both legitimizing Georgetown on the national level and providing momentum as conference play begins.

The Hoyas’ Big East opener is Jan. 2 against a talented iami squad and play wraps up exactly two months later against always-horrible Rutgers, with a lot of NIT-caliber teams on the schedule in between. The only conference opponents ranked in the preseason coaches’ poll are Boston College (No. 16), who play host to Georgetown on Jan. 12, and Syracuse (No. 20), with whom the Hoyas have a home-and-home series. The best of the rest should be Connecticut (Feb. 19), West Virginia (Feb. 2 and Feb. 27) and Notre Dame (Jan. 21 and Feb. 9).

The Big East schedule will always wear a team down, and this could be especially true for Georgetown this year with the Hoyas’ limited depth, so it is possible that Georgetown will fall short once or twice against an inferior team. Nonetheless, the Hoyas have the ability to make it through the regular season with 12 wins in Big East play, and 20 wins overall should come fairly easily.

The Prognosis

Georgetown’s level of success this season will largely rest on the team’s ability to adjust to a more up-tempo style of play while simultaneously integrating a number of new faces into the mix. There is no chance that this group will be mistaken for some of the plodding, defensively-dominant but offensively-incompetent Hoya teams of years past.

“We have more people that can stretch the defense and we have better ballhandlers,” Esherick said. “Every single player on this team can drive to the hoop.”

This style should serve them well in Big East play this year, where the majority of top players face the basket – there is not a single center in the conference receiving preseason All-Big East recognition.

The Hoyas have a tougher schedule than in recent years and people will be gunning for them now – there is no underdog label attached to this team – so the biggest concern for the coaching staff will likely be making sure the team stays healthy, makes good decisions and becomes a single unit by the time March rolls around.

There is no NIT banner hanging over the urinals in the McDonough locker room to motivate this year’s team, because it’s not necessary. The players returning from last year’s team know how to win, and this team has the talent to back it up on the hardwood.

There won’t be any NCAA bubble talk surrounding the Hoyas this year, as they ought to cruise into the tournament. The only questions are if Georgetown can bring home its first Big East Tournament title since 1989 and just how far into the tournament the Hoyas will go.

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