Georgetown coach John Thompson III took his team to China in August in part to strengthen the bonds of a group that had undergone major turnover since the end of last season. The Hoyas lost three key contributors to graduation and another two to transfers, and they brought in five freshmen for a second consecutive year.
Thompson got far more than he bargained for when the Hoyas' second of four contests against Chinese opposition devolved into a violent melee that had both athletic and political ramifications.
|College basketball practice kicks off Friday. Here's a quick look at how some of the D.C.-area college teams will ring in the new season:|
|The Terrapins' 2002 national championship team will be the showcase at Comcast Center with Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Chris Wilcox and Byron Mouton in an alumni game alongside Steve Francis and Greivis Vasquez.|
|Georgetown » Greg Monroe, who is scheduled to play in an exhibition game in the District on Saturday, is expected at McDonough Gymnasium, where the Hoyas will hang Patrick Ewing Jr.'s NBA jersey on the gym wall.|
|George Mason » Mason Madness at Patriot Center includes a scrimmage and lots of performing attractions.|
|George Washington » The annual Colonials Invasion will feature prominent alumni Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Mike Hall and Chris Monroe.|
Two months later, Thompson didn't play down its impact on his young team, along with the value of the practices, the games and other memorable experiences from their 10-day adventure abroad.
"Just from a cultural perspective, it was a great trip," Thompson said at Hoyas media day Thursday. "And then you have an incident, a fight, which was an incident, a global incident. Being a part of that, going through that experience, I do think has helped expedite the coming-together process of this team because quite literally you've got to have each other's back. Just going through that, the understanding that our success, our ability to fight -- yes, the pun is intended -- through situations, we're going to have to lean on each other."
With peace made between the Hoyas and the Bayi Military Rockets, Thompson opens practice focused on replacing backcourt talents Chris Wright and Austin Freeman. After three years in their shadow, senior guard Jason Clark is the elder statesman in the backcourt. He will line up beside sophomore Markel Starks, whose will have a greater role this season after the departure of Vee Sanford, who transferred to Dayton.
Junior swingman Hollis Thompson, who tested the NBA waters during the spring, made 22 starts last season. That's nearly double the combined total of sophomore Nate Lubick (13) and senior Henry Sims (one), who return in the frontcourt.
Coach Thompson said his freshmen, led by 6-foot-8 Otto Porter, are "going to get squeezed, and they're going to get squeezed early and often."
Though they may not quite be the best of friends with Georgetown's veterans, the trip to China, more than might have been expected, already marshaled the youngsters into service.
"It's going to take a lot to become a brother, more than one fight," Sims said. "But it's good to know, brothers or not, they have your back. It's go to know someone's in your corner if something goes down."