We are Georgetown and you’re not: Hoyas open season against St. Francis

The wait is over, Georgetown fans.

The men’s basketball team (0-0, Big East) will finally make their 2014-15 season debut when they take the Verizon Center floor for a Saturday noon tip-off against St. Francis (0-0, NEC). The Blue and Gray will look to kick start their redemption campaign after missing the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since the 2008-2009 season.

Selected to finish second in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Hoyas are just happy to finally start the season and meet the high expectations set for this team.

“We’ve been waiting to play,” senior guard Jabril Trawick said. “We’ve been practicing against each other so long now that you just get ready for the season to start. We’re excited that it’s finally here.”

The Hoyas will face off against a feisty St. Francis squad that was picked to finish first in the NEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Terriers, who return six of the team’s nine leading scorers from last season, will certainly present a challenge for the Hoyas, since, last season, they defeated Miami (FL) in its season opener and nearly downed Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, falling 50-56 in the final minutes. With an influx of new talent to further complement the already experience Terriers, Thompson sees a lot of similarities between both teams.

“In many ways, they’re like us in that they have so many new bodies,” Thompson said. “If they remain consistent with who they have been at their core, they’re a very physical team. Their post players that are returning are very active, very aggressive, very physical.”

Although St. Francis returns a deep and talented squad, the Hoyas will certainly have much of their attention on Terriers senior forward Jalen Cannon. A preseason 1st-team, All-NEC selection, the versatile Cannon averaged 14.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last year and presents matchup difficulties for any opposition. Thompson had nothing but praise for him.

“He’s tough. He’s effective all over the court. On their team last year, in many ways he was their heart and soul. We’re probably going to have to throw several different people at him,” said Thompson. “If you put a big guy on him, he can take you outside. If you put a little guy on him, he can take you inside … It’s fun to watch him play, except this week.”

One player to watch for the Hoyas will be senior center Joshua Smith. For the first time in nearly 10 months, Georgetown fans will get a chance to see Smith in the Blue and Gray uniform. After missing the second half of last season due to an academic issue, Smith will further bolster an already dangerous Georgetown offense.

“When Josh is on the court, there are very few people like him in basketball,” Thompson said. “Now he has to make sure he stays on the court. He adds a completely different dimension to our team because he gives us a low-post presence that commands attention.”

Another Hoya excited to make his season debut is junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The Big East Preseason Player of the Year, Smith-Rivera is ready for whatever opposing defenses throw at him, as he anticipates a lot of double-teams due to his scoring ability.

“I don’t think it will be too much pressure,” Smith-Rivera said. “I’m just focusing on the team, and getting other guys involved. A lot of people will be keying in on me … We have a lot of returning guys that are more than able to put the ball in the basket.”

Although this may be the team’s first official game, the Hoyas did have some closed scrimmages with both George Mason and Virginia. Thompson felt he learned a lot about his team, and says he’s still struggling with finding the right lineup combinations considering the depth of this year’s team.

“We have a lot of new guys and a lot of different ways we can go about skinning the proverbial cat,” Thompson said. “You go through and you try and get different combinations on the court. Overall, I was not displeased with how both of them went.”

Another question mark entering the contest for the Hoyas is their starting lineup, which Thompson normally likes to keep close to the chest entering the year’s first game. While in the scrimmages the team’s starting five included Smith-Rivera, Trawick, Smith, freshman forward L.J. Peak, and senior forward Mikael Hopkins, Thompson does not put much emphasis on who starts the game.

“With this team, as much as any team that I’ve had, it really doesn’t matter. It’s just the five guys you throw out there for the jump ball. We can mix and match and put a lot of people in a lot of different places.”

All in all, Thompson is very optimistic about his team’s prospects. Georgetown fans, however, should be wary since Thompson does not necessarily believe his team’s potential will manifest itself on Saturday.

“I’m very excited about the group that we have. At some point, this year we’re going to be very very good,” Thompson said. “That may not be on Saturday, but at some point this year we’re going to be very good.”

Photo: Freddy Rosas/Georgetown Voice

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