With no senior players and having lost its top three scorers from a year ago, guard Markel Starks, right, has emerged as a leader for Georgetown. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Back in July, Georgetown men’s basketball Coach John Thompson III felt good about the tough nonconference schedule he had crafted for this season’s Hoyas.

With freshmen accounting for one-third of his 15-man roster and not a senior among the bunch, Thompson wanted to test his squad early.

But with Georgetown’s Nov. 9 season opener against Florida just four weeks off — to be followed in short order by clashes with Tennessee, Texas and possibly Indiana — Thompson conceded the faintest shadow of doubt shortly before the Hoyas’ first official practice got underway Saturday at McDonough Arena.

“We have a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Thompson said of his young team, which returns without the three leading scorers — Jason Clark, Henry Sims and Hollis Thompson — from last season’s 24-9 squad.

“There are different ways to skin the cat, and we have to figure out the best way for this group to skin the cat, so we are going to be tested early and often,” Thompson said. “Hopefully you have some success early. And hopefully, if you don’t, it doesn’t demoralize you once conference play starts.

. . . Now, I may be sitting here a month from now, saying, ‘Wow, that was crazy!’ Who knows?”

Georgetown went further last season than most prognosticators forecast, thanks in part to the surprising contributions of a gifted freshman class, 6-foot-8 forward Otto Porter in particular. Picked to finish 10th in the Big East, the Hoyas ended the regular season tied for fourth and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

By all accounts, Porter has returned even better, adding bulk and muscle in the weight room and diversifying his game against skilled veterans at summer camps staged by LeBron James and Kevin Durant. CBS Sports has tabbed Porter as the Big East player to watch, and he’s all the buzz on preliminary 2013 NBA draft boards.

“I try to not pay much attention to it,” said Porter, who Thompson says is as grounded a player as he has coached.

“It’s not working too good,” Porter added with a smile.

Clark, the Hoyas’ hardworking, four-year swingman, led last year’s team by selfless example.

This year’s squad has two presumptive leaders: Junior guard Markel Starks, who says he’s excited about taking the reins, and fellow junior Nate Lubick, the only returning player to have started all 33 games last season.

Starks, who handled the ball for Georgetown much of last season, said he’d give himself a “C-minus” for his sophomore effort. Seeking to make a bigger impact his junior year, Starks said he dedicated himself to basketball over the summer, putting in more work than he had since high school.

He’s not alone in that regard.

The 6-8 Lubick has returned leaner and more chiseled, having devoted the summer to improving his fitness, agility and shooting. His improved shooting touch will be welcome on a team seeking to replace its top three scorers.

Thompson, for one, says he’s not worried about finding five players who can score. If last season’s gifted freshman class continues to progress as sophomores, and if the Hoyas’ five incoming freshmen are as good as billed, Thompson will have ample opportunity to tinker with his lineup to best possible effect.

Like Georgetown’s young players, Thompson was just ready to get to work Saturday, with Florida looming four weeks away.