Center John Q. Jones of the University of Hawaii-Hilo crouched next to Georgetown's Patrick Ewing at the scorer's table, waiting to get back in the game. Players sprinted past. Ewing and Jones chatted like men at a bus stop.
"I asked him how the Olympics were," said Jones, a 6-foot-8 senior from Los Angeles. "And I asked him for his autograph."
It wasn't so much a basketball game as a clinic Georgetown put on against Hawaii-Hilo Friday night, but they kept score, anyway, and the Hoyas began defense of their NCAA championship with an 81-47 victory before 2,950 at the Hilo Civic Auditorium.
In three previous meetings the past two years, Georgetown beat Hawaii-Hilo, a run-of-the-mill NAIA team, by scores of 67-37, 71-42 and 97-35.
So what was the point of playing again? "You hope you can rotate some of the younger players in," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson.
He reinforced the notion that this was nothing more than a working holiday for the Hoyas by lodging the team at Kailua-Kona, 98 miles away on the sunnier and more touristy side of the Big Island.
"That's the purpose of a game like this, to get their comfort zone set," Thompson said. "That helped us win the national championship last year."
Eight Hoyas played at least 13 minutes, and sophomore forward Reggie Williams would have played more than his six minutes except for a sore right shoulder.
Thompson started Ewing, forwards Bill Martin (game-high 20 points) and David Wingate and guards Michael Jackson and Horace Broadnax.
The first Hoyas off the bench were, in order, 6-5 freshman guard Perry McDonald (for Broadnax), 6-11 senior Ralph Dalton (for Ewing) and 6-11 freshman Grady Mateen (for Martin). All saw action in the first 10 minutes.
Georgetown's full-court press created 14 turnovers by Hilo in the first half and 27 in all. Hilo Coach Jimmy Yagi said the Vulcans' only chance was "if the road washes out between here and Kona."
But neither rain nor mudslides nor recent eruptions by the Kilauea volcano could keep the Hoyas from their appointed rout.
"It was a clinic," said Jones, who managed only one shot in the first half against Ewing's intimidating 7-foot, 240-pound presence.
Ewing scored 17 points and had a game-high 10 rebounds in 27 minutes. The only thing wrong with Ewing's night was that he clanged a dunk off the back rim and had no blocked shots.
Thompson also said, in admiring tones, that Ewing didn't shoot enough. "He's so doggone unselfish," Thompson said. "He had shooting opportunities tonight when he was passing the ball around. I told him, 'You're open,' and he said, 'I know it.' "
Thompson was satisfied with the play of Jackson and Broadnax, who had four steals and seven rebounds. "They're (Jackson and Broadnax) good guards," Thompson said, when asked about the two replacing Fred Brown and Gene Smith. "It'll be all right."
Georgetown is ranked No. 1 in almost all the preseason polls, and Jones sees no reason to question that.
"I think they're (the Hoyas) better this year," he said after getting Ewing's autograph after the game. "Tonight, they were more down to business, like they want to go undefeated this time.
"I asked him (Ewing) about the Olympics and stuff. He said it was good international competition. It was no big show to him."
Georgetown will travel to Oahu to play the second and final game of its Hawaii trip Monday night against Hawaii-Loa College, an NAIA team in its second season of intercollegiate competition. The game will be played at Bloch Arena on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base.