You would think that a guy coming off a season in which he averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds per game, who became the first Hoya ever to join the Big East’s 20/20 club in scoring and rebounding and who now holds the conference’s highest scoring and rebounding combination in history with a 35-point, 20-rebound game against Notre Dame might be a little more vocal. Even at Georgetown’s Media Day, reporters beseeched him to elaborate on his brief but courteous answers before he takes the court for practice. But that’s just his style. Mike Sweetney. The man. The myth. The mute?

“He’s quiet,” Head Coach Craig Esherick said. “Very quiet.”

But strangely enough, his shyness is part of the reason Esherick made Sweetney one of the team’s tri-captains along with seniors Courtland Freeman and Victor Samnick.

“I think that in his sophomore year, Mike did not speak and exert his will on the team as much as he should have,” Esherick said. “I made him a captain so he’ll have to talk this year. I think he has leadership abilities, he just needs to speak up more.”

“It’s going to be a lot of pressure.” Sweetney said of his new role as captain. “I’m just not a good talker or whatever, so I’m nervous. But [Esherick] trusted me so I’m going to have to overcome that. I just have to take it one day at a time and stay focused.”

That has pretty much been Sweetney’s mantra throughout his time at Georgetown. Take it one day at a time. Stay focused. He repeats it with almost everything he says. It’s a cliche, to be sure. But it in practice it’s another thing altogether. Besides, it seems to be working.

One of the main reasons Esherick named Sweetney captain was not what he heard, or did not hear, but rather what the coach had seen.

Since coming to Georgetown Sweetney has entered into a rigorous workout regimen and can often be seen out running on his own around Kehoe Field, a ritual he says he partakes in about every other day. The program has paid off for Sweetney, who last year averaged 30.4 minutes per game, the second highest average on the team. In addition to building up his endurance, he’s dropped more than 40 pounds since his senior year at Oxon Hill High School in aryland, turning the once doughy freshman into the most imposing post player in the Big East.

“I dropped a lot of weight, feel quicker, jump higher,” Sweetney said. “I dropped about 15 to 20 pounds over this summer.”

Esherick added, “I think Mike is in very good condition right now. I think that he’s in better condition than he was last year and I think it will show in his play.”

That summer practice may prove invaluable this season, as the spotlight will fall even more on Sweetney after the graduation of last year’s captain, Kevin Braswell. (COL ’02)

“It’s going to be a lot of everything coming at me,” Sweetney said. “I just have to stay focused and take it one day at a time – take it slowly.”

But while the media may consistently focus on the big man’s big game, both he and Esherick are more concerned about the attention that Sweetney will receive from opposing team’s defenses.

Last year, the Hoyas’ lackluster outside shooting allowed teams to collapse the zone around Sweetney and fellow post-player senior center Wesley Wilson, drastically limiting their production. This year the Hoyas hope to correct that problem.

“We have a lot of good shooters this year and everyone was working on their shot over the summer,” Sweetney said.

“We expect Mike to get a lot of pressure inside, so we’re going to try to help him out and open up the post a lot,” junior guard Gerald Riley said.

“I think that we have enough perimeter shooters,” Esherick said of his team, which added freshmen sharpshooters Ashanti Cook and Brandon Bowman this season. “We led the Big East in scoring last season, which a lot of people forget about. I think we have the shooters to take the pressure off of ike.”

With an uncluttered lane, Sweetney could post some huge numbers in 2002-03. Of course, what could be even more exciting than his play this season might be his play in his senior year.

Two summers ago, Sweetney developed a friendship with former Connecticut star Caron Butler while playing on the gold medal-winning Under-21 USA Basketball World Championship team. This summer, Sweetney watched as the Miami Heat selected the underclassman Butler with the 10th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. Still, while Butler is now making millions in the pros, Sweetney promises that he will finish out school and get his degree.

“I told my parents I’d get my degree. That’s what I’m here for, I just have to stay focused.”

At Big East Media Day on Oct. 24, however, Sweeney was more non-committal.

“It’s hard to face. I’m worried about my season and getting my degree right now.”

Regardless of when he enters the draft, the power forward will certainly be a hot commodity with his bruising body, soft hands and sweet touch, a touch that has greatly improved over the years.

As has been a trademark of the Georgetown program, over the summers, former Hoyas such as Alonzo Mourning (CAS `92) have spent time with Sweetney refining the power forward’s game.

“[Mourning] showed me everything,” Sweetney said. “Moves that he works on in the NBA that might work in college and how to get my shot off against taller players.”

For the past several seasons, Sweetney has worked to improve his touch and prior to last season, teammates boasted that he was a legitimate three-point threat. Over the summer, Assistant Coach Ronny Thompson continued to work with Sweetney in this area.

“All summer Coach Ronny Thompson had me shooting threes and working on ball handling,” Sweetney said. “I can’t even explain how many jump shots I took, but it was a lot.”

Despite Sweetney’s three-point abilities, it’s unlikely that Esherick will let his leading rebounder wander out to the perimeter.

“The opposing coaches hope he steps out, and I’m going to make an effort to keep him as close to the basket as I can,” Esherick said. “Mike’s strength is inside. ike’s strength is at the foul line. And his income in the future is going to be dependent on him being able to score inside, not outside.”

Even if the big man will not be hoisting up threes, Sweetney’s improved touch has still helped the Hoyas. Last season the big man toed the foul line 231 times and converted 182 of those foul shots for a 78.8 free-throw percentage. Only Braswell and Riley posted a higher percentage from the stripe.

But through it all, he remains silent. Sweetney does not wag his tongue, does not wave his finger. He just takes the court and does his job.

“Mike has never been someone who has asked for some of the things that someone of his abilities might ask for,” Esherick said. “He’s very much like Patrick Ewing in that way. He’s never asked to miss a sprint because he’s Mike Sweetney. He’s never asked to skip a class because he’s ike Sweetney. He’s never asked to be late for a bus because he’s Mike Sweetney. He’s never asked for me to talk to him differently because he’s Mike Sweetney. That’s probably one of the things I like the most about him.”

It is that modesty that has complemented his drive throughout his career in the Blue and Gray. And so the big man will face the 2002-03 season just as he has met everything else at Georgetown. Cliched or not, he will just take it one day at a time. And stay focused.

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