Things at Georgetown just are not how they should be. Instead of designing plays around Sweetney’s unstoppable post moves, head coach Craig Esherick is sharing dinner with him in New York City. Instead of getting ready to face Grambling, Mike Sweetney is waiting for Don Chaney to put him in and sharing a locker room with Dikembe Mutombo (FLL ’91).

But that is the way college works. Every once in a while, a player like Sweetney comes along and represents his school and his family in exemplary fashion, while averaging 23 points a game. But it’s only a matter of time before he passes through the gates on his way to bigger success.

“My job is to deal with change,” Esherick said, and there have been plenty of changes since Georgetown lost the NIT championship game in March.

After Sweetney left the Hilltop for the Knicks, it didn’t take long for guards Drew Hall and Tony Bethel to skip town. Assistant coaches Ronnie Thompson and Chip Simms didn’t stick around either.

And so, it becomes the Hoyas’ difficult task to focus on what they have rather than what they lost.

On Nov. 21, Georgetown will take its overhauled lineup, with just two returning starters, and start what promises to be a challenging season.

Prognosticators have excluded the Hoyas from preseason polls. They can’t be found on lists of teams likely to make the NCAA tournament, which they haven’t done since 2001. They have no players on preseason all-star teams. They were picked to finish 12th out of the 14 Big East teams.

Much of that could be due to the departures, which from the outside, seem to indicate a disturbing Chicken Little mentality. But Esherick and his team seem to have genuinely put the summer’s losses behind them. Perhaps the task of making up for what they lost on the basketball court is one large enough to keep them focused.

Georgetown will have to use its quickness and abundance of guards, albeit young ones, to make up for the scoring load that used to rest firmly on Sweetney’s shoulders. Because not only do they not have Sweetney, they do not have Wesley Wilson or Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje or Jameel Watkins. Esherick predicts a focus on perimeter play with more three-pointers and quicker shots.

“A lot of times last year we would watch tape and I would be talking to the team about waiting until Mike got down before we looked to score.” Esherick said. “This year, I’m going to tell them to shoot the ball quicker if they have a shot.”

The outside shooting could come from a number of sources. The backcourt will be anchored by senior captain shooting guard Gerald Riley, a returning starter who was the second-leading scorer last season at 14.1 points per game. In the past, Riley has proven an ability to make outside shots, but he doesn’t typically get the opportunity to make the kind of high-percentage shots that accounted for much of Sweetney’s scoring.

“Mike can’t be replaced, so I’m not looking forward to coming out and trying to pick up Mike’s points,” Riley said. “I’m just looking out and trying to be a leader this year.”

Riley will be joined in the backcourt by several point guard candidates. The one with the most experience is sophomore Ashanti Cook, who was injured part of last season and played behind Bethel and Hall, but nevertheless made 38 percent of his three-pointers and scored 16 against Tennessee. Cook can also fill in as shooting guard.

Other point guard candidates are freshman Matt Causey, out of Gainesville, Ga., and Ray Reed from Inglewood, Calif. Causey is a true point guard and was one of the top 100 recruits in the country coming out of high school. He underwent knee surgery in the second week in July and did not come to Georgetown until the end of August. When he started playing with the team, he hurt both hamstrings because of adjustments to the surgery.

“I don’t think he’s 100 percent yet in terms of his quickness and in terms of his stamina and all that stuff,” Esherick said. “He missed an awful lot.”

Reed brings a three-point shooting ability that could help on the offensive end, but Esherick is also confident that he will do more than his share in an area of concern for the Hoyas: rebounding.

“Ray is capable of compensating for the fact that when we put him in the game we’re smaller,” Esherick said. “Ray can get to rebounds. He and Ashanti and Matt have been good rebounders since the first day of practice, and that enables us to be able to play those three guys sometimes together.”

Junior swingman Darrell Owens, who started against the Israeli All-Stars, adds experience to the backcourt. Senior swingman Ramell Ross will likely be looked to contribute from the bench.

The frontcourt will consist of two more players Esherick expects to be major factors along with Riley: sophomore forward Brandon Bowman, the other returning starter and fifth-year senior captain Courtland Freeman, the starting center.

“Brandon is a big part of us adjusting to life without ike because Brandon can rebound,” Esherick said.

In the lineup Esherick used in the exhibition game against the Israeli All-Stars, Bowman was the power forward, although he also has the ability to go outside. Bowman started every game as a freshman, averaging 7.6 points and 4.5 rebounds. He displayed a quickness and ability to drive to the basket that will outmatch most power forwards he matches up against.

“It seems like I’ll be playing like an outside-inside game,” Bowman said. “When I come across bigger, stronger players that are guarding me, I’ll use my strengths to their weaknesses as an advantage [and] take them outside . I’m just going to do whatever the defense gives me.”

Freeman, playing at center, will likely see more time than he has in the past four years. His injury-filled career has been spent playing behind big men like Jameel Watkins, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje and Mike Sweetney. In his third year as captain, Freeman easily fills a leadership role.

“This year, I think, is Courtland’s year,” Esherick said. “He’s clearly our best big man. Courtland is a much better player than he has shown people.”

Redshirt freshman frontman Amadou Kilkenny-Diaw will help out in the paint as well. Esherick says he has gained about 20 pounds in the off-season.

“He learned a lot last year playing behind Mike and Wesley,” Esherick said. “I think Amadou’s going to give us something this year.”

The Hoyas also added Sead Dizdarevic, a 6-8 freshman from Serbia and Montengero, and Kenny Izzo, a walk-on forward.

The Hoyas’ schedule will take them to Penn State and the Citadel before conference games start. They will also face Duke for the second year in a row, this time at MCI Center on Jan. 24.

Georgetown tips off against Grambling at MCI Center on Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

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