Victories will be expected in 15th-ranked Georgetown’s next four games, all home contests against lightly regarded nonconference foes. But the more telling measure of success against Towson, Longwood, Western Carolina and American, teams with a combined record of 13-21, will be how much progress Coach John Thompson III makes in building experience among the reserves he’ll need to rely upon once Big East play begins Jan. 5 at Marquette.
It’s the aspiration of every college coach: Being able to make substitutions as circumstance dictates, without having to weigh the risks and rewards.
The progress was slow going early in the season, with closer-than-expected games against Duquesne and Liberty, followed by contests against ranked opponents UCLA and Indiana. But Georgetown’s bench took a big step forward in a 64-41 victory over Texas on Tuesday, in which D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Jabril Trawick and Stephen Domingo played significant minutes.
“Once you get into league play, a lot of teams go deep in their bench,” junior guard and co-captain Markel Starks (Georgetown Prep) said Friday. “We’ve got to be able to rely on our bench to give us great minutes whenever someone is in foul trouble or injured. Having a good bench — and having a deep bench — is vital.”
That’s not to suggest that Starks or his teammates view Towson (4-4), which visits Verizon Center on Saturday afternoon, and the opponents that follow as a training exercise.
“We’re not taking any of these teams for granted,” Otto Porter Jr. said. “We’re going to play them like we played any other team so far this year.”
Much like their coach, Porter and his teammates aren’t getting carried away by their No. 15 ranking or 6-1 record but seem keenly aware of the strides that have yet to be made.
“Offense, defense and rebounding,” Thompson said, asked what his players need to work on. “I think they know there are a lot of things we must improve on and be much better at. I don’t think they’re floating around here thinking that they have solved the problems of the world.”
Starks and junior forward Nate Lubick have particular reason to respect Towson, having played alongside its leading player, former Georgetown forward Jerrelle Benimon, who transferred following the 2010-11 season. Benimon sat out last season, as required by NCAA rules, but currently leads Towson in scoring (16.3 points per game), rebounding (9.9 per game), field-goal percentage, blocked shots and minutes played.
“He’s more confident,” Lubick said of Benimon, a Warrenton native. “He’s a prominent player on their team and seems to be a guy who is creating offense not just through scoring.”
Thompson said he fully expects the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Benimon to pose problems Saturday.
“He’s a load down there,” Thompson said. “He’s a very smart player, and he can score down there on the block and has been very effective in the post. He can handle the ball so he draws you out. So we’re going to have to pay attention to him.”
Asked what led Benimon to transfer after two seasons with the Hoyas, in which he came off the bench in 61 games and averaged just under 1.4 points per outing, Thompson said: “At the end of the day, Georgetown is not for everybody; everyone is not for Georgetown. That doesn’t make you a good guy or a bad guy. He wanted to go somewhere else.”
Benimon isn’t the only Towson starter with Big East experience. The Tigers’ starting lineup includes 6-5 junior guard Mike Burwell, who transferred from South Florida, and 6-9 center Bilal Dixon, who started 68 games for Providence before transferring.