With the Hoyas abusing Latvia Select late in the first half of what would become a blowout exhibition win for Georgetown on Nov. 1, the crowd in McDonough Gymnasium was waiting to see some excitement amid an otherwise mundane victory.

Suddenly, sophomore guard Tony Bethel picked up a loose ball and raced up the open court for an easy layup – or so everyone thought. Another hard-charging Hoya was hard on his heels, so Bethel decided on the all-too-easy alley-oop off the glass. A moment later, senior forward Victor Samnick flew through the air, snatched the ball and dunked it in one fluid movement. That got the crowd’s attention.

As a tri-captain of the 2002-03 Georgetown men’s basketball team, Samnick will often be the center of attention. Unlike at the exhibition game, however, many will not be watching Samnick for his offensive prowess – considering that he averaged 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds last year.

Rather, as Samnick returns from the foot surgery that ended his 2001-02 season on Jan. 28, the Hoyas will receive a very potent shot in the arm from a leader and a top-notch defensive player.

Fellow senior and tri-captain Courtland Freeman noted the importance of Samnick’s return to the squad. “[Samnick] is one of our best defenders. He can guard all five positions . We expect special things out of him,” Freeman said. “Me, Victor, [senior center Wesley Wilson] . we’re guys who’ve been here, so we have to lead.”

Head Coach Craig Esherick is also looking forward to getting the 6-foot-8 Samnick back on the court as a defensive stopper, especially with the knowledge that Wilson and junior forward and tri-captain Mike Sweetney have the Hoyas’ frontcourt offense well under control.

“Last season, I kept looking down the bench at the end of games, but Victor couldn’t go in. He’s a good defensive player – I could have used him,” Esherick said. “I don’t worry about matchups [with him]. He can guard [Connecticut sophomore guard] Ben Gordon. He can guard [Virginia senior forward] Travis Watson. I missed having Victor last year.”

After the Hoyas finished first in the Big East in scoring offense last year with 81.1 points per game, Esherick is looking for Georgetown to improve on its defense, which allowed 70.4 points per game. “We are going to have to improve as a defensive team. We needed Courtland and Victor to have played the whole season to be as effective as we could have been,” Esherick said.

Samnick, too, missed being out on the court. After rehabilitating a ruptured tendon in his right big toe, he said that he is “almost back, but not perfect.” He also emphasized how difficult it was to be sidelined as the Hoyas missed the 2001 NCAA Tournament and then later declined a bid to the NIT. But the native of Doala, Cameroon is looking forward to the upcoming season.

“It’s always a challenge, and [the tougher schedule] is a way to build. We have a lot of talent. We have to focus on [being] a family-type team . The seniors and captains will lead. We have to set the rules, like team defense and focusing on practice,” Samnick said.

Over the summer, Samnick continued his customary workouts with current Portland Trailblazers center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje (COL ’01). Boumtje Boumtje, also originally from Cameroon, served as a mentor during Samnick’s first two years at Georgetown, helping him with the adjustment after Samnick had come to live with a host family and attend Newport Prep in Maryland for high school.

When asked about his goals for 2002-03, Samnick kept his answer straight and to the point: “Win a lot of games.” He later added, “I’d like a Big East Championship. I want a souvenir of my time at Georgetown.”

After averaging 4.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in his freshman campaign, Samnick’s numbers slipped slightly as a sophomore to 3.8 and 3.4, respectively. But prior to his injury in December, he had raised his numbers once again and also improved his shooting, hitting 40.2-percent of his shots from the floor and 76.7 percent from the free-throw line.

“I’ve never had to give speeches to Victor or [provide him with] motivation. For Victor’s sake, I hope he stays healthy [and] has a good season, because he deserves it,” Esherick said of his hard-working senior.

With the addition of several newcomers this season, Georgetown men’s basketball will get a boost with the return of a talented senior and captain like Samnick. With his athleticism and defensive skill, Samnick can look forward to catching the attention of many Georgetown fans as he and the Hoyas look to make another run at the Big East Championship and NCAA Tournament.

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