When the starting lineup was anounced for last Friday’s Georgeown men’s basketball game vs. Grambling State, I found myself scratching my head. Before that time, I thought for sure that Tony Bethel would start at shooting guard for the Hoyas this season, and that Drew Hall and Ashanti Cook would compete for the point guard spot. I also thought that Brandon Bowman would be third on the depth chart for small forward behind Gerald Riley and Victor Samnick. Instead, Bethel came out at the point, Riley at two-guard and Bowman at the three. The frontcourt against Grambling consisted of Mike Sweetney and Wesley Wilson, but that was a real no-brainer, considering that Sweetney is the team’s best player and Wilson is the team’s only true center.

Craig Esherick has outsmarted me – and I think most Hoya fans – by starting this lineup. It’s the right lineup and the one that should continue to be used if these five players can continue to play the way they did against the Tigers.

In Tony Bethel, Esherick more than sufficiently replaces Kevin Braswell. Bethel can do all the things that the Hoyas need from a point guard in 2002-03: score, cut down turnovers and pass the ball to Sweetney. Bethel passed the first test by scoring 16 points on Friday night, second only to Sweetney’s 21. He did turn the ball over twice, but looked comfortable bringing the ball upcourt in general. There weren’t enough feeds to “Big ike” in the post against Grambling to satisfy me, but that can be easily improved upon.

At the shooting guard position, the Hoyas should primarily be looking for someone who, as the position’s title indicates, can put the ball in the hole. Starter Gerald Riley did that in the season opener, making six of his eight shots from the field. By moving Bethel to the point and starting the 6-foot-6 Riley at shooting guard, Esherick also creates a size advantage for the Hoyas at that position. The question is whether or not Riley can continue to shoot as he did against the Tigers. If he can avoid the inconsistency he has shown in his first two seasons, then the Hoyas will be in good shape at both guard positions.

The only problem with this backcourt lineup is that it keeps explosive freshman guard Ashanti Cook on the bench at the beginning of the game. Cook played 19 minutes last Friday night and dropped 13 points on five-of-seven shooting. He also shot 100 percent from behind the arc. Although I originally thought Cook would challenge for the point guard spot, the position he played in high school, I wouldn’t mind seeing him coming in for Riley instead. He has the quickness to create his own shot, and when he puts the ball in the air it looks good, which makes him a more than decent fit for the two-guard.

As far as the frontcourt goes, Mike Sweetney should play 30 minutes a night against quality opponents, no questions asked. As a result of improved conditioning and training, Sweetney looks even better on the court than he did last year: his moves are quicker and smoother, and he seems to loft the basketball toward the rim almost effortlessly. Against the seemingly tiny Grambling players, Sweetney looked like Charles Barkley (the late 1980s Charles Barkley, not the current version) playing against six-year-olds. Sweetney will clearly be the best post player in the Big East this season and the real anchor of this year’s Georgetown starting lineup.

In contrast to Sweetney’s strong play on the offensive side of the ball, Wesley Wilson’s shot tended to disappear and re-appear during the Grambling game. It remains to be seen whether he will be a scoring presence for the Hoyas or go the way of Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje his senior year: a shot blocker with no consistent shot of his own. Wilson will need to improve on the paltry (for a 6-foot-11 center) four rebounds he pulled down Friday night as well. At any rate, Wilson’s size alone makes him the only option at center; hopefully the lack of competition won’t affect his play.

Freshman Brandon Bowman is the wildcard in Esherick’s starting lineup. He proved he belongs there four seconds into his Georgetown career, sprinting up the floor to receive a Mike Sweetney pass and slam it down for a spectacular opening dunk. In a small forward, the Hoyas should have someone who can slash inside with the ball and then either shoot or dish to Sweetney. Bowman needs to improve this component of his game somewhat, but he has good size and the fundamentals to work with. He also has an outside shot almost as good as his high school teammate, Cook. On the other end, defensive specialist Victor Samnick will deservingly see a lot of time at the small forward position this season as well, but Bowman is a much better offensive player, and Esherick is right to want him in at the beginning of the game.

The coaching staff has come up with a starting lineup that fits the needs of the 2002-03 Georgetown men’s basketball team. Now, if they’d just put some motion in the offense, feed the ball to Mike Sweetney a little bit more and stop the constant substitutions, I’d say the Hoyas are on the road back to the Sweet 16.

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