Men’s basketball seeks a fresh start with new faces

November 4, 2023

Design by Conner Martin

A new era under head coach Ed Cooley is underway for Georgetown men’s basketball, and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the 2023-24 season. However, many key players left the team last season, and it’s not clear if new additions will be enough to turn things around. 

The bar for success is low, however, since the 2022-23 season was nothing short of abysmal. The Hoyas started the season by barely squeaking past Coppin State in overtime in a game where Georgetown was favored by 18.5 points, according to CBS Sports. The Hoyas finished the season with a 7-25 (2-18 BIG EAST) record, a performance poor enough for Georgetown to fire head coach Patrick Ewing at the end of the season.

The university announced that it had hired Cooley, then the Providence head coach, on March 20. Cooley’s hiring has created palpable excitement on campus about the upcoming season, but it’s still not clear if the changes underway will translate onto the court. Cooley has recruited some impressive names: four-star freshman forward center Drew Fielder switched his commitment from Providence to Georgetown, and former four-star junior guard Dontrez Styles is joining the Hoyas from the UNC.

Cooley’s biggest recruiting win thus far has been getting sophomore guard Jayden Epps from Illinois. Epps averaged 9.5 points in just under 25 minutes per game for the Fighting Illini, but he looks set to have a starring role for the Hoyas. BIG EAST insider John Fanta reported that Epps scored 46 points in a secret scrimmage between Georgetown and Wake Forest. Epps is a talented recruit who has the potential to be Georgetown’s go-to scoring option this season.

Another new face is graduate forward Ismael Massoud, a transfer from Kansas State. Unfortunately, Massoud broke his hand in a closed scrimmage against Pitt, according to a report from Fanta. The forward will miss between six and eight weeks of the season, a huge blow to the Hoyas who were already struggling with frontcourt depth given how few returning players the team retained from last season. 

Gone are Georgetown’s two leading scorers from last season, guards Primo Spears and Brandon Murray. The same is true for former center Qudus Wahab, who averaged 9.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and is using his fifth year of eligibility at Penn State. 

Despite the departure of several key players, some returners may be able to bring experience and familiarity with the school and program. Senior guard Jay Heath is the leading returning scorer, with an average of 12.3 points per game last season. He was the most accurate 3-point shooter for Georgetown last season, making 37.3 percent from behind the arc on 4.6 attempts a game. 

Senior guard Wayne Bristol Jr., senior forward Victor Muresan, and junior center Ryan Mutombo are the only other returners this season. None of them are huge scoring threats and only Bristol Jr. averaged more than 10 minutes a game last year, meaning Heath is the only returner who was more than just a role player last season.

All of Georgetown’s returners could get minutes this season, but the Hoyas’ fresh faces will likely be the biggest contributors. Fans can expect to see Epps, Heath, Styles, Supreme Cook (or Massoud if healthy), and Drew Fielder as regular starters, with Mutombo, Rowan Brumbaugh, Donovan Grant, and Austin Montgomery rounding out the rotation. 

Georgetown has a relatively easy non-conference schedule this year; none of their opponents are ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. TCU, who will visit Capital One Arena on Dec. 2, is Georgetown’s strongest non-conference opponent of the season, ranked 30th out of 362 Division I teams, according to KenPom. 

Georgetown kicks off the regular season with a game against Le Moyne College at Capital One Arena on Nov. 7 in Le Moyne’s first men’s basketball game as a Division I school. They’re ranked second to last out of all D1 teams in KenPom’s rankings, so Georgetown should expect a win, although, as last year’s opener against Coppin State showed, the first game of the season can be hard to predict. Preseason scrimmages provide some insight, although the Hoyas’ performances in their two secret scrimmages sent some mixed signals. According to Fanta, the Hoyas beat Wake Forest 81-77 thanks in large part to Epps’s scoring performance. In another scrimmage, Pitt beat Georgetown 78-64, according to Hilltop Hoops and Pitt Sports Network. 

Georgetown will have a difficult BIG EAST schedule, though. The Hoyas have No. 5 Marquette, No. 6 UConn, No. 8 Creighton, and No. 22 Villanova on the conference schedule. St. John’s, with new head coach Rick Pitino, and Xavier, with its strong class of newcomers, will also be tough tests for Georgetown, although neither team was ranked in the preseason Top 25.

Amid a rough season, there are a few rivalry games—against both old and new foes—to look forward to. The Hoyas travel to Providence on Jan. 27 for a matchup against Cooley’s former team in what will surely be a heated atmosphere, given all the hate Cooley has received from his former fans. The Friars come down to Washington on Tuesday, March 5, a tough matchup for Hoya fans because the game falls right in the middle of Georgetown’s spring break. To make matters worse, the Hoyas face off against longtime rival Syracuse at Capital One Arena on Saturday, Dec. 9—smack-dab in the midst of finals. The games may not have a true rivalry atmosphere, which is disappointing for such marquee matchups.

Despite a few scheduling disappointments, there is a lot of hype for the upcoming Georgetown men’s basketball season. Cooley will have his first chance to prove himself to the now-energized Hoya faithful, many of whom have high expectations for the start of his coaching career. A largely overhauled team with a few key returners will have to show it can deal with the pressure and impress. 

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