If you can't tell from the roster that a significant transition is occurring within Georgetown's basketball program, all you have to do is look at the schedule.
The Hoyas' usual pre-Big East Conference menu of devourables has been replaced by teams that may not go down so easily. Yes, they will start with their usual retreat to Hawaii for games Friday and Saturday against NAIA Hawaii-Loa and Hawaii Pacific.
But after playing Division II Southern Indiana -- perhaps a concession to senior center Dikembe Mutombo, whose brother Ilo plays for the Screaming Eagles -- the Hoyas take on Duke in the ACC/Big East Challenge, a Rice team that is expected to finish in the upper half of the Southwest Conference for the first time since 1971, St. Leo (okay, some things never change), Texas-El Paso, Ohio State and Houston.
Georgetown might actually lose a game before beginning Big East play -- something it has not done in the last two seasons and only once in the last four.
"I think this is probably one of our most demanding preliminary seasons," Hoyas Coach John Thompson said. "And we wanted it that way because of the younger kids. We wanted to get them baptized under fire."
From last season's team, five players were graduated and three transferred. Two of the six players who remain played very little last season, and a third is recovering from an illness that has sidelined him for nearly all preseason workouts.
That leaves a lot of baptizing to be done, even if 7-foot-2 freshman Pascal Fleury redshirts this season.
Freshman guards Joey Brown (Morgan City, La.), Charles Harrison (Archbishop Carroll High School) and Lamont Morgan (Gonzaga) likely will divide the point guard duties that last season belonged to Dwayne Bryant, who graduated, and David Edwards, who transferred to Texas A&M.
Those three will do even more while sophomore Antoine Stoudamire, one of two returning guards, recovers from strep throat and a virus. Junior Ronny Thompson also will step into the off-guard spot, from which the graduated Mark Tillmon led Georgetown in scoring last season with an average of 19.8 points per game. The Hoyas also have junior Kayode Vann, a former walk-on.
Freshman Robert Churchwell (Gonzaga) may start at small forward, a position that might have belonged to Michael Tate or Milton Bell had they not transferred to James Madison and Richmond, respectively.
Junior college transfer Brian Kelly and freshman Vladimir Bosanac also will be expected to contribute at forward. So will sophomore Mike Sabol, who played just 99 minutes last season. They will be picking up for graduates Sam Jefferson and Anthony Allen.
"Of the seven people we brought in, most of them are going to be major contributors," Thompson said. "They're not going to be support players."
Of course, they are not exactly going to be adrift either. They will be anchored by the 7-2 Mutombo, Georgetown's only senior this season, and 6-10 junior Alonzo Mourning. And Mutombo, who has been named team captain by Thompson, takes his role very seriously and very personally.
"I'm coming this year to play for the ring," said Mutombo, who averaged 10.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.1 blocks a game last season. "I'm coming to win the Big East championship, I'm coming to win the NCAA championship. That's what I'm playing for this year. It's my senior year and I'm the captain of the team."
Although Mutombo and Mourning almost automatically make Georgetown a national contender, the twin-tower situation presents Thompson with a challenge.
"Having those two guys in there makes them a step slower," Syracuse junior forward Billy Owens said recently.
Last season, that meant the Hoyas needed to get ahead in games so they could dictate the tempo and flow. It didn't always happen. After they lost to Xavier in the second round of last season's NCAA tournament, Thompson spoke about their difficulty with teams that had less size but more mobility and thus a greater ability to play the full-court, break-neck style for which Georgetown used to be famous.
"That's the way we used to be in the old days," he said, "the way we will return to very soon."
For that return to take place, the inexperienced guards and small forwards will have to play well. In addition, Mourning (16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.2 blocks per game) will have to continue his development as a player away from the basket and Mutombo will have become a more diversified and consistent scorer. Thompson said recently he is optimistic on all fronts.
"I think Alonzo is getting better at it because it's something that he's worked at very hard in practice," he said. "I also feel that we are quicker on the perimeter than we've ever been. . . . And overall, I think we're a better ballhandling team in general."
If that is the case, there will be less pressure on the guards. But excellent play by freshman guards is not unprecedented at Georgetown. With Bryant and Tillmon starting as freshmen in 1986-87, the Hoyas went 29-5, reached the NCAA tournament's final eight and became known as Reggie (Williams) and the Miracles.
"We have some kids who can really play," Mutombo said of the newcomers. "They look like they've played two or three years in college. We will see when the season starts in January. We don't need to talk that much. We just need to shut our mouths and wait until then."