Charles Nailen/The Hoya Junior swingman Darrel Owens will be in the starting lineup when the Hoyas open their 2003-04 campaign tonight against Grambling State. Owens averaged 13.2 minutes per game and shot .413 from the floor.

At 7:30 tonight, Head Coach Craig Esherick and the Georgetown men’s basketball team will finally have something tangible to talk about other than last year’s disappointments and the offseason departures of two players and two assistant coaches.

As Georgetown faces its first opponent of the year, Grambling State, all of the usual excitement appears to be with the team, although perhaps not as much with the student body.

Somewhat low expectations have been set for the Hoyas by outsiders, as the Big East coaches picked them to finish 12th out of the 14 conference teams. Despite the low outlook for the team, there are many young players who will be looked upon to play major roles, and that should draw interest.

Fans will get their first regular season glimpse of four freshman and one sophomore who redshirted last year: guard Matt Causey, forward Sead Dizdarevic, forward Kenny Izzo, guard Ray Reed and forward Amadou Kilkenny-Diaw. But they also will probably see more playing time going to veterans who have not previously seen a lot of game time, such as senior forward Courtland Freeman. Freeman is a captain whose career has been plagued by injuries, but who is now healthy and appears ready to step into a new role.

The starting lineup will most likely be that which Esherick chose in the Hoyas’ preseason exhibition game against the Israeli All-Stars and also used in the scrimmage against Princeton: sophomore guard Ashanti Cook, senior guard Gerald Riley, junior swingman Darrell Owens, sophomore forward Brandon Bowman and Freeman. Of those five, Bowman and Riley are the only returning starters.

The game will also be a chance to check out the new style of play that Esherick says the Hoyas will be implementing. He describes that new style as faster and more perimeter-oriented; he expects to press more.

One of the keys to the game will surely be rebounding. Without a proven inside force such as Mike Sweetney, who averaged 9.2 rebounds per game in his career, Georgetown will be looking even to its guards for boards. In the preseason game against the Israeli All-Stars, this approach worked – freshman guard Ray Reed had six rebounds and Riley had seven.

Grambling will be led by senior forward Paul Haynes, who averaged 17.4 points per game last season and was All-America Honorable Mention and Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year two years ago, and sophomore Brion Rush, a preseason all-SWAC guard who averaged 17.1 points last season.

Grambling was picked fifth in the SWAC’s preseason media poll.

The Hoyas are 7-0 all-time against Grambling, whom they have played early in the season for the past four years.

Georgetown and Grambling will tip off at 7:30 p.m. at MCI Center.

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