John Thompson III has been very busy since taking over as the Georgetown men's basketball coach in April. He's been out on the recruiting trail, he's met with students and alumni, and he's been getting to know his players. All of that has been leading up to this: the start of practice.

The Hoyas will hold their annual media day this afternoon and then will officially kick off the season with Midnight Madness late tonight.

"I'm antsy and excited, and the guys are, too," said Thompson, whose team will open the season against Temple on Nov. 22 at MCI Center. "This is what all the preparation is for. It's time to start to work."

Thompson's arrival signals something of a fresh start for a program that won only 13 games last season, its fewest number of wins since the 1973-74 season (which, incidentally, was the first year as head coach for John Thompson Jr., the current coach's legendary father). Georgetown lost 15 of its final 18 games and ended the season with a nine-game losing streak. Coach Craig Esherick was fired, and Thompson was hired away from Princeton, his alma mater, in April.

Thompson inherits a team that has just two seniors (including one, RaMell Ross, who has been sidelined with injuries for much of his career) and nine players who are in either their first or second year.

But, really, the Hoyas have 14 freshmen, Thompson says. Georgetown has 14 players who are getting used to a new coach, who are learning new offenses and defenses, and who are learning a new way to play.

The Hoyas' offense won't look exactly like the offense that Princeton ran last year en route to winning the Ivy League and advancing to the NCAA tournament. It will be based on the same principles, however.

"We're going to share the ball, we're going to play together, and hopefully there will be a lot of spacing and movement," Thompson said. "It's the way of playing, based on sharing the ball and movement, that will be consistent."

Georgetown lost two starters and one key reserve from last season's team that finished 4-12 in the Big East. Guard Gerald Riley, who led the Hoyas with 17 points per game, is gone, as is forward Courtland Freeman (8.3 points and 4.3 rebounds). Reserve point guard Matt Causey, who averaged 2.2 points in 13.5 minutes per game as a freshman, transferred to North Georgia College and State University.

Junior forward Brandon Bowman, the Hoyas' most productive player over the second half of the season, is back; he averaged 15.9 points and 8.1 rebounds. Junior guard Ashanti Cook and senior swingman Darrel Owens, both starters last season, also return.

The back court will be a little thin at the start, due to Causey's departure and an injury to sophomore Ray Reed, who broke a bone in his right foot during an offseason workout in September. Reed will be sidelined for at least another 10 days; he will be re-examined by a doctor today.

Five freshmen, including All-Met forward Jeff Green (Northwestern) and 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert (Georgetown Prep), join the Hoyas.

"We're past that feeling-out phase," Thompson said. "We're excited to get started. It's time."

Cavs' Center Sidelined

Virginia backup center Donte Minter is expected to miss at least a month after injuring his right kneecap in practice 10 days ago. Minter, who hurt the same knee last season, has been rehabbing and wearing a brace. He said he hopes to be back for the Nov. 19 season opener against Robert Morris.

Virginia held its annual media day yesterday in Charlottesville, fresh off three exhibition games in Montreal that gave the Cavaliers a head start on the season. The Cavaliers, 51-41 over the past three seasons, are shooting for their first NCAA tournament berth in four years.

"I think we're going to really prove a lot of people wrong this year," guard-forward Gary Forbes said. "We're going to see who our real fans are."

Special correspondent Jim Reedy contributed to this report.