Part of the Georgetown men's basketball team preparation for this season's Big East play involves leaving the East Coast -- and the country altogether. On Friday, the Hoyas will embark on a 10-day trip to Italy with a quick stop in Switzerland. This isn't just about sightseeing, but getting an early jump on the 2015-16 season with four games scheduled.
CSNwashington.com recently held a Q & A with head coach John Thompson III about the trip and other aspects of the program, including recruiting and the upcoming season. Some of portions of the phone interview were shortened for space and brevity. Part I also includes Thompson's take on which of his players showed the most improvement this offseason.
CSNwashington.com: How is your Italian coming along?
John Thompson III: It will be there. I haven't started thinking about it too much (laughs). I'm excited about the trip. Obviously, there is the bonding aspect and we get to play. Being able to start practice and get to play with each other.
CSNwashington.com: You mention bonding and practice. How much of this for you is about the experience for your players and how much is about truly getting a jump-start on next season?
JTIII: I definitely have some systems, offensively and defensively, we want to take a look. It's probably mostly about seeing combinations. It's not just let's go roll the ball out and have some fun and go see the Coliseum. It's also not midseason getting ready for Big East. There are obviously some things you want to look at.
CSNwashington.com: I know better than to ask you about specific plans if you're about to play Villanova but for this trip what specific details of your plan can you provide?
JTIII: This year's team is an experienced team in that we have a lot of returning players. We also have an incoming freshman class that are going to be thrown in there. Just getting different lineups. We need to rebound better than we did last year. We need to defend the 3-point line significantly better than we did last year. So focusing on those things and turning defensive plays into more offensive opportunities.
CSNwashington.com: During your recent interview with CBS Sports, you mentioned the 2014 class (includes Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak, Paul White and Tre Campbell) might end right with the Jeff Green group as your best class ever. You also said the new three-member class of Jessie Govan, Marcus Derrickson and Kaleb Johnson has chance for such heights as well. Please elaborate on those thoughts.
JTIII: Time will tell. I think this past year's class - they were asked to produce and they did. As sophomores, they're going to have more responsibility and are going to have to produce at a higher level in an environment where the opposition knows they can produce. That's what sports is all about and I think they're ready for that. Across the board, each one of them has improved this spring and summer. The biggest leap has come from Trey Mourning, who didn't play at all (six games) as a freshman. I do have high expectations for the sophomore class. As for the freshman class, I expect all of them to come in and contribute immediately. We probably have as versatile a group a we've had for quite some time. You talk about things you want to work on in Italy. We can put multiple combinations out there with people in different positions. We have people you can't pigeonhole with 'Is he a point guard? Is he a two-guard?' I think figuring out these combinations will be as much of a takeaway from this trip as anything else.
CSNwashington.com: Since you mentioned him specifically, what improvements are you noticing with Trey Mourning and does this mean he could be part of next season's rotation?
JTIII: Without a doubt he may be part of our rotation. He's 6-foot-9. I don't know the exact number, but he's probably put on 20-30 pounds over the course of a year. (Mourning was listed at 217 pounds last season). When he walked in the door (at Georgetown), his understanding, and his skill level were never in question. He needed to go through the process of getting used to facing high competition every day. The past year he's improved. He's an extremely confident young man with good reason. He added weight. He added strength. Coupled with his understanding, his feel for how to play at this level, I think he can make a jump.
CSNwashington.com: Going back to the various recruiting classes for a moment. I know you're not allowed to discuss potential recruits directly, but at this point there are no reports of any commitments for 2016. How unusual is that for you at this point in the process?
JTIII: Have we commented on the 2015 class yet?
CSNwashington.com: (Laughs). No.
JTIII: Ha, OK. I think the last couple of years we've had commitments going into the summer and this year we don't. I don't think it's a worry at this point. I feel pretty good with where we are with a couple of people we're recruiting. I think that by this time next year, our 2016 recruiting class will be what we want it to be.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Where are all the guards?