At Georgetown’s men’s basketball media day Tuesday, there was one pervasive sentiment shared by both players and coaches alike: We have a lot of question marks, but we are extremely confident.

Take the sudden departure of Demetrius Hunter, which left the team without a genuine two-guard to compliment senior Kevin Braswell in the backcourt. Sophomore Gerald Riley, the man who presumably will be asked to shoulder the load at two-guard during the early part of the season, says it’s not going to be a problem for him to make the transition, even though he didn’t see much time at the position last year. He’s been working out with Braswell all summer, he says, and he’s just going to do whatever Head Coach Craig Esherick asks him to do and play hard, be it at shooting guard or small forward.

So too are the Hoyas apparently confident in their ability to rebound and defend well on the interior despite the loss of Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Nathaniel Burton and Lee Scruggs. Junior center Wesley Wilson said he’s glad that people are skeptical about the prowess of the Hoyas’ inside game. Asked if he is intimidated by his critics, he looked the reporter dead in the eye and calmly replied, “I like to be doubted.”

Wilson says he ready to be the Hoyas’ main option at center, having learned a lot from playing with some of Georgetown’s basketball alumni this summer, including Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning.

Even more confident was junior forward Victor Samnick, who will also need to elevate the level of his play if the Hoyas are to be successful. “I can guard anybody,” he said, referring to his speedy friend and Virginia guard Roger Mason. “I’m fast enough.”

One of the reasons for the Hoyas’ confidence has to be the strength of the incoming recruits, particularly Thomas and guard Drew Hall. Hall was absolutely amazing during the shoot-around the media was allowed to watch. I wasn’t keeping track of it statistically, but he was hitting what conservatively looked like somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of his shots from behind the three-point line. One by one, every reporter there slowly turned to watch him shoot. Granted, it was only practice, and no one was guarding him, but from the looks of it, this guy can flat-out shoot.

Demetrius who?

What was most apparent on Tuesday was that this is a very different team than the one that began practicing last October: They are faster, smarter and more experienced – in a word, better – and they know it. This is not the team that a year ago was hoping to make into the NCAA tournament. These are the Georgetown Hoyas, heirs to one of the greatest traditions in college athletics, not the ragtag bunch struggling to keep their head above water a few years ago. To a man, the Hoyas said that they know they are good enough to make the Sweet 16 again, and to a man they all said they won’t be satisfied unless they do better than that this year.

Nowhere is the difference between now and then more apparent than in Esherick and Braswell. Esherick’s increased comfort level is obvious; he knows that he has brought the program back from the brink to its rightful place in the national scene. His confidence is tempered like any coach’s should be, but it’s obvious that he is proud of his team and what he thinks they are about to accomplish.

He is obviously more comfortable than ever before in his tenure at handling the media. He dominated the tone and topic of the press conference like a White House press secretary. He began by saying that he was going to make one and only one statement about academics. Every reporter’s eyes lit up, hoping that he was going to finally say if prospective starter freshman Harvey Thomas would be academically eligible. Esherick let the question hang there, knowing exactly what was going through our minds. Darrell Owens, another freshman recruit not expected to play much, is sitting out the season because of academics, he said, and you could see the smirk spread across his face at the fast one he had just pulled on us.

He said he was concerned about rebounding, defense and motivation, but not for any other reason than that’s what he is paid to do. He brushed off any suggestion that the team had shown any problems that would lead him to worry if he weren’t the coach.

But at the same time, Esherick suggested that the one thing he had slight concern about was overconfidence. He said he was glad sophomore Mike Sweetney didn’t play very much for the under-22 men’s national team this summer in Japan, saying it was good for the Hoyas’ budding star to be reminded that there are lots of players out there better than he is. At the same time, he said Sweetney is one the verge of becoming a “very good player.”

Braswell, too, was the picture of confidence. The only senior on the team, the last man standing from the John Thompson era, he probably knows better than anyone else except Esherick what the program has been through of late. Like Esherick, he finessed the reporters like a seasoned pro. He isn’t worried about Hunter’s departure, and he is certain Riley can handle the change. His praise for Sweetney was downright gushing: “He’s everything.”

In his fourth and final season at Georgetown, Braswell seems to have evolved not only into a polished player but something of an assistant coach as well. He talked about the preparedness and quality of the incoming freshmen, the team’s motivation and intensity level and his excitement about being able to take more of a behind-the-scenes leadership role this year.

The Hoyas have grown up a lot in the last couple of years, and they are better for it. They have that swagger again that all competitive programs share. They aren’t rebuilding anymore and they know it. But maybe most importantly, this is a team that knows how to win again and they are reveling in it.

No one said it better than Samnick: “We’re having fun. And when we have fun, we can get far.”

Tim Sullivan can be reached at sullivanthehoya.com.

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