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- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2008

REASONS TO HOPE

Superb talent

John Thompson III begins his fifth season on the Hilltop with more raw talent than he has ever had. The Hoyas' starting lineup has three McDonald's All-Americans (sophomores Chris Wright and Austin Freeman and freshman Greg Monroe), the 2006 Baltimore player of the year (junior DaJuan Summers) and senior guard Jessie Sapp, a three-year starter.

History

Thompson's first four teams at Georgetown exceeded expectations in the conference. This season, the Big East's coaches tabbed the Hoyas to finish seventh; history says Thompson will maximize his team's potential and it will outstrip expectations.

Speed and perimeter defense

The silver lining in the graduation of stalwarts Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace is that this team will be faster. New point guard Wright is quicker than Wallace and has an attacking mentality in transition. And since Monroe is more adept than Hibbert in an up-tempo format, the result should be a run-ready team capable of scoring more easy baskets in transition.

Chemistry

Despite all appearances to the contrary, last season's team wasn't as unified as Thompson would have liked. While he was occasionally dominant, Hibbert had a sizable ego, and his aloof off-court demeanor didn't score points with teammates. Departed reserves Vernon Macklin and Jeremiah Rivers both distracted at times. This young team has no issues along those lines.

REASONS TO WORRY

Youth

The Hoyas lose four of the core players who carried the team to a second consecutive Big East regular-season title. Three expected key contributors — Monroe, guard Jason Clark and center Henry Sims — are true freshmen. The severity of the learning curve will determine the Hoyas' success ... or lack thereof.

Schedule

With such a young team, a coach ordinarily prefers a schedule that starts slowly and crescendos later. Georgetown's slate is just the opposite. There are early nonconference games against ranked foes Tennessee, Memphis, Duke and potentially Michigan State or Gonzaga. Then there's a savage start against the cream of the Big East: at Connecticut, vs. Pittsburgh and at Notre Dame.

ROSTER

20Jason Clark (6-2, 176)Fr.G

2008 All-Met player of the year has impressive wingspan and could be a defensive dynamo

15 Austin Freeman (6-4, 239) So. G/F

Starting swingman should be more assertive after solid freshman campaign

11 Byron Jansen (6-6, 210) Sr. F

Walk-on from Seattle scored only bucket of his career on 3-pointer at St. John's last year

5 Nikita Mescheriakov (6-8, 214) So. F

Sharpshooter from Belarus is brother of former George Washington star Yegor

10Greg Monroe (6-11, 250)Fr.C

Louisiana big man considered to have highest ceiling of any freshman in nation

21 Jessie Sapp (6-3, 212) Sr. G

Harlem, N.Y., native has logged 70 starts and has knack for delivering in clutch

30 Henry Sims (6-10, 225) Fr. F/C

Baltimore blue-chipper has superb hands and shot but needs muscle and polish

3 DaJuan Summers (6-8, 236) Jr. F

Team could go far if two-year starter becomes more physical and effective inside arc

22 Julian Vaughn (6-9, 246) So. F

Florida State transfer needs to forget about playing as a jump-shooting power forward

31 Omar Wattad (6-5, 225) So. G/F

Will battle Mescheriakov for few minutes given to ninth man in rotation

4 Chris Wright (6-1, 201) So. G

McDonald's All-American takes over at the point after injury-plagued freshman season