Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time for gathering amongst kith and kin, a holiday centered around the family coming together. At least that was the idea when Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III scheduled a two-year series against his little brother Ronny – then

the coach of the Ball State Cardinals – for the third week in November.

Things have since soured for Ronny Thompson at Ball State, and now, tomorrow’s game has become the Georgetown coach’s chance to avenge his brother’s messy split with his former employer.

When John Thompson leads Georgetown (2-0) into Muncie, Ind., for a non-conference tune-up against winless Ball State, it will be the latest chapter in a bizarre sequence of events between the Thompson clan and the Cardinals’ contingent.

Ronny Thompson – who went 9-22 in his only season in uncie – resigned on July 12 after racist notes were found inside the coach’s office in Worthen Arena. Since then, Ronny Thompson and the Ball State athletic department have been caught in an eddy of swirling rumors and accusations. His resignation – which came in an e-mail to the athletic department – made it clear that the coach no longer felt welcome at Ball State, but many critics have speculated as to whether or not someone close to Thompson may have planted the notes in an attempt to gain leverage on the Ball State administration. He has since moved back to the D.C. area to work as an analyst for Comcast SportsNet and drops by cDonough Gymnasium to see his older brother often.

Despite the pre-game buzz, John Thompson sees his team’s first road test as nothing more than that – a test.

“At the end of the day, it is much identical to any other game in our pre-league schedule,” he said in a phone interview Monday afternoon, adding that his younger brother will not be in attendance at Worthen Arena. “I think every game is a different experience, and every game

you can grow from.”

If junior guard Jessie Sapp gets his team rolling early like he did in last Thursday’s 74-52 pummeling of Michigan, it could be a very satisfying night for all wearing Hoya blue or the Thompson “T.”

Current Cardinals Head Coach Billy Taylor, who was hired Aug. 8, has been left a threadbare cupboard after a rash of dismissals and transfers.

“The kids are so resilient,” Taylor told before the season. “The ones who are on their third coach in three years are great. They’ve been really receptive and responded very well.”

With no players taller than 6-foot-5, there should not be any question as to who Sapp and senior point guard Jonathan Wallace will be looking to with the ball in their hands. Senior 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert exploited a smaller William & Mary lineup – whose tallest defender stood 6-foot-8 – for 23 points and eight rebounds in the season opener, so the sky may be the limit for the preseason Big East Player of the Year.

The Georgetown coach maintains that the stat column is completely irrelevant to his big star.

“Roy wants to win,” he said. “Whatever his points or rebounds are, he wants to win.”

Although he calls Hibbert – who struggled against a ichigan double team and still finished with a respectable 12 points and six rebounds – the “focal point” of the Hoyas’ offensive scheme, the defending Big East champions have shown they can spread the wealth as well. Georgetown has had four double digit scorers in each of its first two games, and the Hoyas’ bench poured in 31 points against the Wolverines. Freshmen guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, who scored 10 points on Thursday night, will more than likely see ample time against the hapless Cardinals.

“They still have a ways to go,” John Thompson said of his pair of former McDonald’s All-Americans. “If you’re talking about the freshmen class, they are smart. . They’re going to go through the growing pains that freshmen go through. But it’s good to get them out there against a quality opponent and give us something to talk about.”

The Cardinals are led by senior Peyton Stovall and juniors Anthony Newell and Laron Frazier. Stovall has pulled down ten-plus rebounds in each of the Cardinals first two games and needs five points to put him over 1,000 for his career. Newell dropped a career-high 29 points against Milwaukee and Frazier added 19 in his first appearance as a starter.

After letting William & Mary hang around into the final minutes of the season opener, Georgetown played two halves of shut-down defense against the Wolverines. The Hoyas blanked the University of Michigan for the first four and a half minutes last Thursday and only allowed 19 in the whole first half.

“I thought [our defense] was key to tell you the truth,” John Thompson said following the game. “Our defense early in the game set the tone. That’s something that, as the season progresses, hopefully we can continue to do that.”

No matter how compelling the storylines of tonight’s game read, John Thompson has trained his team to ignore them and carry on as planned. Judging by his team’s no-nonsense play against ichigan and senior leaders’ words, it looks like the Hoyas are getting the message.

“Every night we play, we have a bullseye on our back, and we have to come out with the mentality that we are a good team and that we can make things happen, and we have to relax and play,” Wallace said. “Within ourselves, we have to play with the confidence that we are one of the best teams. At the same time, I don’t think we can let that get to the point where it almost brainwashes us to where we’re not focused and we take teams lightly.”

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