Basketball Preview: Georgetown

Scout.com continues the preview of Big East schools with the Georgetown Hoyas where first year coach John Thompson III is looking to bring success back to the Washington, D.C. program.

GETTING INSIDE

When the Hoyas hired John Thompson III as their head coach, they were hiring not just a big name in school annals, but a coach with experience of winning at a strong academic school with less-talented players.

That experience may come in handy in the near term.

Thompson takes over a program that has fallen precipitously since the days when his father walked the sidelines with a scowl on his face and a towel over his shoulder. During the five-year Craig Esherick era, the team reached one Sweet 16, refused an NIT bid, and hung a banner honoring another NIT appearance in the men's room.

But after last year's debacle that saw the Hoyas nearly not even qualify for the Big East tournament, Hoya fans would be grateful for any postseason appearance this year.

That will be a tall order. The Hoyas weren't very good last year, and lost top offensive threat Gerald Riley to graduation. Thompson is installing the Princeton offense, and describes himself as having a roster of "14 freshmen" because of the effort required to pick up the scheme.

Brandon Bowman, however, is back.

After initially indicating plans to transfer a couple of years ago, he came back to provide a good portion of what little offense the Hoyas had last year. Ashanti Cook also returns to run the backcourt, and Darrel Owens provides senior leadership. But there's not much depth and even less offense on the roster, and Georgetown will get run out of the gym against elite teams if it doesn't value the basketball.

The school's choice of a coach may harken back to glory days of years past, and Thompson may be able to return the Hoyas to that kind of stature in the future. For this season, however, earning respect may be the best his team can hope for.

NOTES, QUOTES

STRENGTHS: Brandon Bowman is back. He showed he could score in an offense where only he and the departed Gerald Riley were legitimate scoring threats. Bowman can become one of the Big East's elite players if he can take another step forward. Georgetown's also a program that at least has some buzz surrounding it again thanks to the coaching change.

WEAKNESSES: This team is incredibly young; nine players are in their first or second year with the team, and only two are seniors. Moreover, it's a young team learning a new offense and dealing with a new coach. It's going to need to excel on the defensive end of the floor to have any chance of winning, because the offensive talent just isn't there.

LAST YEAR: 13-14 overall, 4-12 in the Big East; missed postseason.

HEAD COACH: John Thompson III (career 68-42); first season at Georgetown

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm antsy and excited, and the guys are, too. This is what all the preparation is for. It's time to start to work." -- Georgetown coach John Thompson III, in the Washington Post.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SCOUTING THE NEWCOMERS: Forward Cornelio Guibunda is a talented swingman, and will get the chance to play right away if he can show some offensive flash. At 7-2, center Roy Hibbert could be a feat-or-famine guy -- he battled injuries in high school, but Georgetown has been known to have OK success at developing big men (see: Ewing, Mourning, Mutombo).

Given the team's inexperience, Tyler Crawford -- who averaged 25 points per game in high school -- Jeff Green and Jonathan Wallace will get a chance to win time as well. Crawford, who also averaged 6 steals a game, may be the best bet.

KEY EARLY-SEASON GAMES: Nov. 22 vs. Temple. Georgetown's nonconference schedule is tougher than usual -- ironic given the elder John Thompson's propensity for adding cupcake games against Division II schools from Hawaii. But the opener against Temple is an early chance for a statement win against a team with a big name, but a history of slow starts.

PROGRAM DIRECTION: At the moment, ascending. There's nowhere to go but up. But it probably won't happen this season, and clearly the team descended quite a bit from the days when the elder Thompson prowled the sidelines.

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP: Point guard Rayshawn Reed, shooting guard Ashanti Cook, center Amadou Kilkenny-Diaw, power forward Brandon Bowman, small forward Darrel Owens.

ROSTER REPORT: Ray Reed broke a bone in his right foot and missed the first few practices, but is expected to be ready for the start of the season. ... One positive aspect of the coaching change is hoped to be a reduction in the number of transfers, which have plagued the Hoyas in recent seasons. However, point guard Matt Causey left the team this summer -- a significant loss, since he would have seen significant time in the backcourt. ... Darryl Owens is the only senior with real playing experience; RaMell Ross has spent most of his Georgetown career in street clothes and a cast.

Note: Causey, a native of Gainesville, Ga., transferred to North Georgia College and State University, an NAIA program. Matt will be rejoining his older brother Mark who is a 6-foot-4 junior shooting guard.


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