Georgetown coach John Thompson III received a Bachelor of Arts in Politics at Princeton…but as he enters his 12th season with the Hoyas Thompson is enjoying his role as a chemistry professor.  “That’s one of the thrills of the job.  Whether you lose one person from last year or you lose four, you have a new group.  Trying to piece this group together and trying to learn the best way for this group to win is what’s exciting about being a part of a team.”  The Hoyas return plenty of talent from last year’s NCAA Tournament team…and face the traditional expectations that have been in place since the 1980’s.

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera’s decision to enter the NBA draft had the Hoya faithful holding their collective breath before the senior opted to return to the school for his final year of eligibility.  Coach Thompson has a proven veteran to produce on the floor (the 6-foot-3 guard has led the team in scoring the last two years) as well as off the court, saying: “I’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth in him from last year to this year-just in the aspects of being a teammate.  And how hard he’s pushing, prodding, cajoling our younger guys.  So he’s been a very good leader”.  Smith-Rivera will be leaned on early and often by a roster with six sophomores and three freshmen.

But this sophomore class is not your typical group of second-year players.  LJ Peak and Isaac Copeland averaged over 20 minutes a game last winter while Paul White and Trey Campbell also saw significant time off the bench.  Any combination of the four could find starting roles;  each will play a significant part in the coach’s plans: “We need them to perform like seniors.  As it relates to production but more importantly in understanding…and caring.  I’m putting a lot on their shoulders but I think they can handle it.  In many ways that class is the core of what we have.”  The “core four” played a big part in last year’s return to the NCAA Tournament…and the team’s play this winter will hinge on how this group grows.

And let’s not discount this year’s incoming trio of Marcus Derrickson, Kaleb Johnson and Jessie Govan.  Even with the limited practices senior D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera sees the potential in this group, saying “they can get up and down really well. Marcus can shoot the ball-he’s a great rebounder too.  Kaleb’s great in transition and Jessie can finish at the rim and has great post moves–he has tremendous footwork too.”  Govan may be needed to help fill the void up front…as the top two rebounders Joshua Smith and Mikael Hopkins both graduated last spring.  They went 8-12 after losing Smith to eligibility issues as a junior two winters ago…and competing in the Big East minus big men who can battle on the boards would result in one winter of discontent.

One of the keys last season was rebounding– as the Hoyas won the battle of the boards 14 times in conference play. Coach Thompson: “that’s always a concern.  We don’t have a single person that –D’Vauntes is probably our most instinctual rebounder–it’s been a point of emphasis.”  Seven foot senior Bradley Hayes may be tapped early to man the post; after averaging 3.4 minutes a game during the regular season Hayes exploded for 8 points and 6 rebounds in the Hoyas’ NCAA Tournament win over Eastern Washington.  Perhaps Sophomore Trey Mourning (12 minutes played over six games last year) emerges as a presence.

Last year the Big East boasted the third best RPI in Division I.  This year it appears as though everybody’s chasing preseason #9 Villanova…with the Hoyas picked second in the league’s preseason poll.  Before conference play, the Hoyas will be tested early and often in a non-league slate that includes Wisconsin, Syracuse and preseason #3 Maryland.  Thompson says, “we’re making a point to try to get everything in.  Everything won’t be fine tuned for months.  We play a lot of different styles early–not just good teams, but different styles of play. So we’re going to have to be good at a lot of different ways to play early.”  The avidly awaited on-campus matchup with Maryland takes place Tuesday, November 17th. There are those who will want to see this matchup because it’s two inside the beltway schools clashing, while there are others who are curious as to how good the highly touted Terrapins are.  The Chemist/Coach wants to see if he has the right formula figured out…