Few college basketball teams play better defense than Georgetown. That pleases Coach Craig Esherick immensely.
"We have guys who have rebounding and defensive skills that are, in some respects, better across the board than people [around the country] at their positions," he said.
However, most of the Hoyas also are astonishingly lacking in basic offensive fundamentals. These flaws continued to surprise and dismay Esherick as the team prepared for tonight's Big East Conference game against West Virginia in Charleston.
"Dribbling, passing and catching," said Esherick, rattling off the problems. "Skills supposedly people on scholarship are possessing before you offer them scholarships. We have to spend time, in practice, working on that."
Why weren't these flaws obvious during the recruiting process?
"You don't really know somebody before you coach 'em for a year or two," Esherick said, then added: "The dribbling and passing are getting better. We can correct that. We will get better."
The Hoyas (10-7, 2-4) have 12 regular season games remaining in which to show improvement. The schedule is favorable, with two games each against Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Rutgers and with home games against Villanova, Southern of New Orleans and Notre Dame.
Still, the Hoyas hardly inspired great confidence even before being blown away in the second half Saturday at home by then-No. 8 Connecticut. Problems with many of the basics make them highly vulnerable, especially at the end of close games.
"We should be able to move the ball from one side of the floor to the other without any defensive pressure," Esherick said. "We should be able to do that every single time. We shouldn't have a turnover with no defensive pressure on us."
Esherick was silently critical of his other players in the way he praised point guard Kevin Braswell. "Kevin is our best shooter," Esherick said. "Kevin is our best dribbler and our best passer. And it's not even close in those three categories."
Braswell scored the final 10 points in a 72-69 victory over Boston College on the road last week. The Eagles also could not keep Anthony Perry from slipping the ball to Braswell in the final 10 seconds, and he maneuvered around a screen and hit an off-balance, three-point shot for the victory.
"I want to take over," said Braswell, who finished with 27 points against BC. "I always want the ball with the game on the line. I'd rather do it myself, and take the blame for it if I miss the shot."
The alternatives to Braswell dominating the offense have not been encouraging. Shooting guard Perry is in a deep slump, making just 23 percent in conference play. Freshman Victor Samnick has trouble creating shots and center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje has 22 turnovers and two assists in six conference games.
Against St. John's, Esherick tried to rest Braswell. When Perry moved to the point, he threw the ball away on back-to-back possessions and Braswell went back in. The first guard off the bench, freshman Demetrius Hunter, also is unsure running the team.
Seniors Jameel Watkins and Rhese Gibson were expected to be overtaken by some highly regarded freshman front-court players, and have been. Watkins still starts, but has averaged 10 minutes in league play. Freshman Courtland Freeman has averaged 15-plus minutes and Esherick expects increased improvement once he completely recovers from a late-summer foot injury.