“Let’s just get better and work hard. Five years from now – let’s be better than we are now.” Those were the words of a humble and still relatively unknown John Thompson III, fresh from Princeton University and on a Georgetown campus where few fans knew about him, the Princeton offense or new recruits Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert. Few students were overly excited for the season. Georgetown basketball, a program that used to intimidate opponents with just its name, was feared by almost no one after coming off a 13-15 season under Head Coach Craig Esherick. And now, three years later? Well, some might say Georgetown is better. Since Thompson’s declaration on Nov. 3, 2004, the Hoyas have toppled an undefeated, No. 1 Duke, upset Ohio State to advance to the 2006 Sweet 16, won a Big East regular season and tournament title, reached the 2007 Final Four, seen Jeff Green named Big East player of the year and then sent him off to be the fifth pick in the NBA draft, and now enter the season ranked as a top-five team nationally. But Thompson isn’t uncorking the champagne just yet. “We are still getting there. We have so far to go – that’s the truth,” he says. “I put just as much pressure on myself when we were four years ago, and we finished last in the conference. Will there be more people watching us? Possibly – but I don’t equate that to more pressure.” Whether Thompson feels it or not, there is more national pressure on the Hoyas opening this season than they’ve received in quite some time. For starters, more than a few people are wondering just exactly what Georgetown’s game plan will be without Jeff Green. The 6-foot-9 forward was pivotal in Georgetown’s success over the last three seasons. From his freshman season when he led the team in rebounds, assists and blocks on his way to being named 2004-05 Big East co-rookie of the year to his junior year as captain when he led the team in scoring, received a number of most outstanding player awards, and scored more than a few key shots in the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament to book Georgetown’s ticket to the 2007 Final Four. After the season ended, however, Green decided to declare for the NBA draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility at Georgetown, and now dons a Supersonics jersey in Seattle. While Green wears green and yellow, the Blue and Gray have gone to work over the summer to step up their game and make sure his presence will not be missed on the court. For starters, the once-quiet senior center Roy Hibbert is stepping up to the challenge in his first year as a captain. “I don’t think we’ve lost anything with Jeff gone,” Hibbert confidently says, adding that he just wants to fill the void left by Green’s jump to the NBA “fill the void that Jeff did.” Hibbert is the player many are looking for to make up some lost ground due to Green’s jump to the NBA. A unanimous selection to the Big East all-preseason team and voted by Big East coaches the preseason player of the year, Hibbert has developed from a gawky freshman to a team leader. “I’ve never heard Roy talk so much,” junior guard Jessie Sapp says. “He’s more vocal.” Senior guard Jonathan Wallace, who joined Hibbert on the Big East all-preseason team, said that the center is quickly becoming the Hoyas’ focal point. “You can tell a difference in his game, more assertive in what he does, expands his game a little bit,” Wallace says. Wallace says that Hibbert knows his game plan in Green’s absence: “Go to the lane and go to work there . finding angles to score alone.” Wallace himself will be a key factor in Georgetown’s game this year. As the team’s starting point guard three years running, Wallace provides a voice both on the court and off the court that all his teammates respond to. “Jon shows you how to lead on the court,” sophomore guard Jeremiah Rivers says. “Coach has put a lot of responsibility on Jon.” Wallace averaged 11.4 points in regular season play last year, and also stepped in during the NCAA tournament, sinking a three-pointer that sent the Elite Eight game against North Carolina into a decisive overtime and posting a season-high five three-point field goals in the team’s semifinal loss to Ohio State. Offensive production in general is a question mark in the Hoyas’ preseason notebook, as Green led the team in scoring last year averaging 14.3 points per game. But Hibbert is confident that Georgetown can pull it off. “We have a really good shooting team this year,” he says. Attribute this at least in part to the Hoyas’ two incoming McDonald’s All-Americans, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright. Freeman, a shooting guard, and Wright, a combo guard, have both shown solid shooting ability in summer league play and bring a fast-paced energy to the Hoyas’ court. “These guys bring a little more depth,” Wallace says. “They’re quick. They change the pace of the game.” According to senior forward Patrick Ewing Jr., the addition of the two guards changes the composition of the team. “Our dynamic changes every year,” he says. “You can see a difference – try different things, up the tempo.” Ewing stepped up his game as last season progressed, showing up big in the Hoyas’ closest game of the Big East Tournament, an 84-82 comeback win against Notre Dame in the semifinals. Ewing was typically the sixth man last season, using his abundant energy to change the tide in more than a few games. The Hoyas will also be looking to sophomore forward DaJuan Summers to produce more, both offensively and defensively. “He’s not a freshman anymore,” Thompson says. “DaJuan will have more of a responsibility this year than he did last year – that’s applicable to a lot of people on this team. I think you will definitely see him do more things.” Summers averaged 9.2 points in 26.4 minutes of play during the regular season. He came up big at times in March, scoring a career-high 20 points and adding six rebounds against North Carolina in the Elite Eight, but was a non-factor in the Hoyas loss to Ohio State, shooting 1-for-10 from the floor and turning the ball over three times. Summers is still trying to improve, especially with his toughness down low. He spent the summer lifting in the weight room and working on his post skills. “I was watching game tapes, and I didn’t go after as much rebounds as I should’ve,” he says. Senior guard/forward Tyler Crawford, the fourth captain, said that Summers’ work ethic is indicative of the team’s mentality. “We’ve grown up a lot. We tried to pride ourselves on playing hard and getting better,” he says., Crawford adds that the team has been hard at work on just about everything: “Everything – defense, offense, little things, big things, everything possible.” Altogether, the Hoyas look like a much different team than the one Thompson inherited three years ago. It’s a team that continues experimenting and changing, and one that will have to step up to challenge of losing one of its best players. “We’re a scrappy team,” Hibbert says. “It’s gonna be hard. We know what we have to do is tough.” But from the looks of it, Georgetown’s prepared.

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