How does a team prepare for a game it is almost certainly going to win? That is the question the Georgetown men’s basketball team must answer before it opens its 95th season of collegiate basketball tonight against the Grambling State (La.) Tigers at MCI Center.

The Tigers present a less than formidable challenge for the Hoyas in tonight’s opener. Grambling limped to a 9-19 record last year and sixth place finish in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, a conference ranked 30th out of 32 teams in last year’s RPI standings.

Grambling does, however, boast junior forward Paul Haynes, the SWAC Player of the Year and an Honorable Mention All-American. Haynes averaged 20.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in 2001-02. Beyond Haynes, however, the Tigers have very little with which to threaten the Hoyas.

This is the fourth straight year Georgetown and Grambling will meet. The Hoyas have won the last three meetings by an average of 33 points.

Despite the quality of the opponent, Georgetown Head Coach Esherick said he still believes the game can be productive in developing positive patterns that will be carried on throughout the season.

“What I want is to establish a style of play that we can continue all year,” Esherick said. “Everyone is dying to play a regular game.”

Of most interest to Hoya fans tonight will be who receives the majority of playing time at point guard. In the Hoyas’ 132-58 rout of Latvia Select, freshman Ashanti Cook started at the point and played well. Cook scored 19 points and dished out a team-high seven assists. At the time, however, sophomore point guard Drew Hall was injured with a sprained ankle. Esherick indicated that Hall has been practicing on and off this week and will be ready to play on Friday.

But Esherick was not ready to say who would start at point guard.

“[Sophomore guard] Tony [Bethel], [junior guard/forward] Gerald [Riley], [junior forward] Mike [Sweetney] and [senior center] Wesley [Wilson] will start,” Esherick said. “They’ve earned the right to start. I don’t know yet who the fifth starter will be. Tony may start at point guard.”

Regardless of who starts, Bethel, Hall and Cook should all see significant playing time during what will likely be a lopsided game.

In addition to Hall, both Riley and junior guard/forward Ramell Ross have battled injuries in the preseason. Riley suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and Ross dislocated his right shoulder. Esherick said Riley has been getting stronger in practice recently and will be ready to go at nearly 100 percent tonight. Ross is not really in playing shape yet but could suit up and should be back to full strength in Dec.

Things don’t get much tougher in the coming weeks for Georgetown. Monday, the team takes on James Madison University. The Colonials are coming off a 13-15 season and finished 2001-02 ranked 229 out of 324 teams in the RPI.

What may end up being more productive in the long run for the Hoyas than these early season walkovers was a unique preseason scrimmage they took part in on Nov. 10 with the Princeton basketball team.

The idea for Sunday’s scrimmage arose when the NCAA decided that Division I teams could scrimmage each other instead of scheduling a second preseason exhibition. The conditions are that the score of the scrimmage cannot be kept, the game cannot be advertised and tickets cannot be sold.

Thus, there were few observers when the two teams took to the floor at Princeton’s Jadwin Gym. Two people who were there, however, were former Princeton Head Coach Pete Carril and former Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson. The two coaches, both inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame, have over 1,000 victories between them in their legendary coaching careers. Both were on hand to provide instruction and advice to players on each team. Coincidentally, Thompson’s son, John Thompson III, is Princeton’s current head coach. Thompson’s other son, Ronny (CAS ’92), is a Georgetown assistant coach.

Throughout the scrimmage, both teams were able to experiment with things they could not have tried in a normal game.

“It was a great way for us to get ready in a teaching environment,” Esherick said. I told [Princeton coach] John, why don’t you play a zone, then we’ll play a zone. I think we got an awful lot accomplished. There was a lot we can teach from, and it’s something I’d definitely do again.”

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