When the Georgetown men’s basketball team steps on the hardwood for its Nov. 22 opener against Grambling, there will be someone different starting at point guard. Graduating senior guard Kevin Braswell (COL ’02) will not be leading the Hoyas this year as the team seeks to improve upon last season’s disappointments.

In the three years I’ve been here at the Hilltop, no one has defined recent Georgetown basketball better than Braswell. The team lived and died at the hand of Braswell, and he was the player everyone loved to hate and then occasionally embrace when he made an unbelievable game-winning shot.

As solid a player as he was, Braswell could not escape the inconsistencies that frustrated the fans and cost the Hoyas key conference games. At times, he looked magical running the offense and making clutch buckets. Yet there were also times when he looked just the opposite as he forced shots in double or triple-team coverage and gave up the ball in end-of-game situations. As a fan, I never knew what to expect from Braswell game in and game out. Unlike all-everything junior forward Mike Sweetney, who always seemed to produce big baskets and carry the team in tight games, Braswell’s contributions were always up in the air.

Perhaps the Hoyas’ biggest problem last year was their inability to finish games strongly. Too many times, Georgetown lost close contests in the last minutes of the game because of a failure to execute the offense. Obviously there is no one person to single out and blame, but one inevitably has to look at the point guard and leader of the team for answers.

No one else, however, not even Sweetney, carried the burden that Braswell did. During Georgetown’s Sweet 16 run two years ago, Braswell was unfairly compared to Juan Dixon in the Maryland game. And then last year, with a preseason Top 20 ranking and high postseason aspirations, Braswell was the player most criticized when Georgetown failed to make the NCAA tournament.

Braswell did not have the talent of Georgetown’s more famous guards like Allen Iverson or Sleepy Floyd (CAS `82), but there is no question that the Hoyas’ offense revolved around him. He was unquestionably the leader of the Hoya teams of the past three years.

This year’s team will miss his 14.4 points per game. As much as you hate to admit it, Braswell was the team’s best driver, passer and perimeter defender. His assist to turnover ratio was 2:1, and he was the team’s best free throw shooter at 84 percent.

Despite the fact that the Hoyas remain basically the same team from last year, they will be hard-pressed to replace Braswell. With all the attention on Sweetney, senior center Wesley Wilson and the rest of the vaunted Georgetown frontcourt, you cannot forget the importance of a solid backcourt to distribute the ball, penetrate and hit the outside jumper.

Opposing teams will no doubt be gunning for the two-headed interior monster, and will employ the same suffocating defensive strategies from last year. Sweetney will be double and triple-teamed on occasion, and Wilson has been known to disappear from games Therefore, Georgetown will have to find its firepower elsewhere.

Sophomore guards Drew Hall and Tony Bethel will share the responsibility of replacing Braswell and stabilizing the backcourt. Bethel showed his potential last year, stepping in admirably for the departed Demetrius Hunter, and establishing himself as an outside threat as well as a great cutter. In the few minutes when Braswell took a breather, Hall showed signs of being a capable floor general and a good outside shooter.

While Bethel and certainly Hall lack Braswell’s experience, they guarantee the Hoyas a new look in the backcourt. They will not have to carry the weight of fans’ expectations as much as Braswell did. The groans will be a little softer and the patience will be a little higher. With strong guards, however, like Pittsburgh’s Brandin Knight and Notre Dame’s Chris Thomas in the West division of the Big East, Hall, Bethel and the rest of Georgetown’s guards will eventually have to accelerate their learning curve and step up.

From last year’s signs, Bethel and Hall seem to have what it takes to solidify the backcourt for the next three years. As inexperienced as they are relative to Braswell, they represent a fresh outlook on this season. Braswell will always be remembered as one of the best guards in Georgetown history, but this year’s Hoyas must move on.

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