By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
With the departure of 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert, the most prolific among an invaluable quartet of graduating seniors, the style of the Georgetown men's basketball team is likely to change this season, Coach John Thompson III said yesterday.
But to a man, the Hoyas' top returning players insist there's no reason their aspirations should change, too.
"Not at all! We have one common goal, and that's to win a championship," guard Jessie Sapp, the lone returning senior starter, said during yesterday's preseason media day at McDonough Arena.
Anchored by Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace, Patrick Ewing Jr. and Tyler Crawford, Georgetown's 2007-08 squad won its second consecutive Big East regular season title and earned its third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, where an upstart Davidson squad stalled its run in the second round.
But as much as he cherished those seniors, Thompson made clear that he stopped lamenting their departures long ago.
"Everyone who has followed us and been around knows how special that group is to me," Thompson said. "But they're gone. We're not going to dwell on who's not here; we're going to dwell on the guys who are here."
That list includes familiar faces such as Sapp, eager to take on a bigger leadership role; junior forward DaJuan Summers; and sophomore guard Austin Freeman.
It also includes sophomore guard Chris Wright, a prep standout from Bowie who missed the bulk of last season with a foot injury. Now healthy, Wright has the potential to alter the Hoyas' approach as much as any player, given his speed.
The Hoyas' retooled front court also should boast more quickness with Greg Monroe, a highly touted 6-11 freshman, in the mix.
As a result, Thompson said the team would likely play a more up-tempo game -- provided, of course, that its foundation remains intact.
"This team has the aptitude and athletic ability to play at a faster pace than the team in the past," Thompson said. "But at the same time, they understand that end-of-the-game, half-court execution is what wins games."
Thompson took pains to say that Wright wouldn't simply be plugged into Wallace's former role at point guard. Nor will Monroe simply step into Hibbert's shoes down low.
A college basketball team is perpetually in flux, Thompson noted. And it was evident that he relishes the coaching challenge it presents -- not of simply swapping new players for old, but of finding the style of basketball that suits his players' skills best.
It's a process that the Hoyas will work on in the coming weeks as they prepare for their season opener against Jacksonville on Nov. 17.
"We have to figure out how this group is gonna win," Thompson said. "That's always how I've done things: We figure it out."