Each year, a team from the Former Soviet Republic of the Month is invited to McDonough Gymnasium to lose to the Georgetown men’s basketball team. The scoreboard might as well have been turned off last Friday night, however, as it became apparent 10 minutes into the first half that this year’s victim, Latvia Select, couldn’t pass, couldn’t shoot, couldn’t play defense and certainly had no chance of avoiding a rout at the hands of the Hoyas. By the time the dust had settled, the scorecard read 132-58.

This exhibition was disappointing for fans for two reasons: First, watching such a lopsided game is no fun. In addition to the complete lack of suspense, Georgetown’s opponent looked like a bad high school team on the court. (In fact, a couple of their players looked like they were young enough to still be in 10th grade.) They committed 41 turnovers, most of which came on ill-advised baseball passes the length of the court that were easily picked off by Hoya defenders. To put it nicely, I think that Georgetown Visitation’s varsity team probably could have played just as well as the Latvians.

Because only one team played what appeared to be quality basketball, it was virtually impossible for fans to determine just how good this season’s team will be, which is the primary reason for spending six bucks on a ticket and a Coke and going to sit on uncomfortable bleachers for 2.5 hours on a Friday night.

While it is currently impossible to say how this year’s team will react when faced with a quality opponent, a few important things can be said about the way the Hoyas played against Latvia Select. To begin with, this year’s first-year players are good, possibly very good. The most impressive of the bunch on Friday was freshman Ashanti Cook, who started at the point (presumably due to sophomore guard Drew Hall’s injured ankle) and looked more like an upperclassman than a freshman in terms of confidence with the basketball. He also showed that he might be the best dribbler on the team, spinning his way down the court past Latvia defenders and swinging the ball behind his back in full stride with ease. Cook also drove the lane with ease, but he won’t have such a simple time with that when UConn sophomore guard Taliek Brown is swiping at the ball and sophomore Emeka Okafor is waiting in the paint.

Freshman Brandon Bowman was Cook’s teammate on their California state championship high school team. Although he has a very smooth shot and led the new players with 22 points, it appears that Bowman’s strength is defense. Immediately after entering the game he began making steals; my informal total made it up to seven before I stopped counting. Of course, a couple of those “steals” were passes thrown directly into his hands by Latvian players, but he still looked very impressive.

Darrel Owens is a sophomore, but sat out last season due to academic ineligibility, so this was Georgetown fans’ first chance to see him play in a school-sanctioned contest. Owens most distinctive trait (at least on Friday) is his willingness to sprint up and down the court constantly. He’s a pretty fast guy, too. It is unclear in which position Owens will be used; Head Coach Craig Esherick played him at the point and at the wing against Latvia Select. Don’t expect Owens to get too much playing time this season (he’s third on the depth chart at both those positions), but expect him to play hard and unselfishly (he had six assists in 21 minutes of play) when he does.

The most impressive thing about these three players is that they came out and played well in their first game in Hoya uniforms. Even though their opponent was less than worthy, it would have not been entirely surprising if Cook, Bowman and Owens had stepped onto the court with butterflies in their stomachs. Instead, they were making flashy moves, causing turnovers, throwing down slam dunks and sinking threes.

This was the only chance Georgetown fans and students got to see their team before the Nov. 22 opener, since the Army Fort-Hood scrimmage has been taken off this year’s schedule. (I imagine they have more important things to do at this point in time anyway.) It’s too bad that it didn’t show much about the team, but it was easy to tell that there are at three positives going into the season in Cook, Bowman and Owens.

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