From the opening tip-off three-and-a-half years ago in the Hoyas’ season-opener against Georgia State to the Hoyas’ upset win over Syracuse last Saturday, almost nothing remains the same. In that game against Georgia State in the fall of 1997, the Georgetown Hoyas were coming off their 18th appearance in the NCAA tournament in 19 years. In their game against Syracuse on Saturday, the Hoyas had experienced three disapointing years, each resulting in trips to the NIT behind them. In that game, three and a half years ago against Georgia State, a basketball icon by the name of John Thompson paced the hardwood for the Hoyas. Against Syracuse on Saturday, Craig Esherick, still unknown by many, coached in that awesome giant’s stead.

Yet during all this change, one thing has remained constant: In that game against Georgia State in the fall of 1997, a rookie by the name of Nathaniel Burton suited up and played in his first collegiate game; last Saturday against Syracuse, Burton suited up and played in his 123rd consecutive collegiate game, having played in every single game for four years.

Seldom a headline-grabber, Nathaniel Burton’s career on the Hilltop has been defined by consistency, determination and grace. And though his playing time has steadily declined over the last three years with the influx of new talent, Burton has accepted his role gracefully. Still, Burton’s average of 5.2 points per game this season and his 3.8 rebounds per game is good for fourth on the team behind the towering Michael Sweetney, Ruben Boumtje Boumtje and Lee Scruggs.

Last season as a junior, Burton started about half the games for the Hoyas and finished the season ranked third on the team in rebounding and fifth in scoring.

Burton’s best season, however, was his sophomore year. That season, the gritty swingman set career highs in points (21) and rebounds (12) in a game against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. A full-time starter, Burton ranked third on a very young team in scoring behind then-sophomore Anthony Perry and then-freshman Kevin Braswell.

With only several games remaining in his career, Nathaniel Burton will likely become one of only a handful of Hoyas in history to play in every game over the course of a four-year career at Georgetown. And next season, when Burton is gone, his absence will be noticed.

– Stephen Owens

Anthony Perry

The past three years have been marked by a constant state of flux for Georgetown’s basketball program, and no one demonstrates this better than senior Anthony Perry. Since he first donned a Georgetown jersey in 1998, Perry’s play and his role on the team have been consistently evolving and changing.

When he arrived at Georgetown in 1997, Perry was one of the most touted recruits in the country, a steal for John Thompson’s program. Perry was the all-time leading scorer at St. Anthony’s High School in Jersey City, N.J., averaging 19.7 points, seven rebounds and three steals. With Perry, St. Anthony’s won three consecutive state titles. He was also nominated to participate in the 1997 McDonald’s All-American Game, where he played alongside Elton Brand and Lamar Odom.

After sitting out his first year at Georgetown because of NCAA Clearinghouse problems, Perry quickly made his mark as starting shooting guard. Despite an ankle injury that plagued him throughout the year, Perry led the team in scoring by averaging 14 points per game and was selected to the All Big East Rookie Team.

Perry returned for his junior year confident that he could still improve on his previous years’ performance. He had spent the summer trying to enhance his shooting precision, especially from long range. Though he saw limited action in his second campaign as a Hoya, Perry had several key shots that gave the Hoyas crucial lifts when they needed them the most.

Facing Louisville last February at MCI Center, the Hoyas were down 57-59 until Perry sank a 14-foot jumper to give Georgetown the lead with 24 seconds left.

He followed up that game-winner with an equally impressive layup against Virginia in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. Perry’s basket tied the game at 77 with just over a minute to play, sending the game into overtime. The game went through three overtime periods and the exhausted Hoyas eventually outlasted the Cavs 115-111.

In his senior season, Perry has matured as a player, showing improved shot selection and providing added offensive power off the bench. With this added depth, the Hoyas have been able to finally return to national prominence.

– Sarah Walsh

Gharun Hester

Were it not for Georgetown’s epic NIT victory over Virginia last spring, Gharun Hester might just be remembered as the quiet walk-on at the end of the bench, his name a vague familiarity, but little more.

Instead, Hester hit the game-winning shot against the Cavaliers and will forever be a part of Georgetown basketball history.

While Hester was looking forward to his time as “just another student,” Georgetown’s basketball team was struggling early in the 1998-99 season. A rash of injuries had torn through the depth of the squad and Head Coach John Thompson was forced to go looking for additional players to fill out the practice team.

Thompson turned to the football team for help, and Head Coach Bob Benson was more than happy to oblige. Over the years Hester became a full-fledged member of the team.

Last season, Georgetown was returning the majority of its starters from the prior year and featured a group of talented newcomers that relegated Hester to the bottom of the depth charts.

But when Big East tournament rolled around in March, Hester started to see major playing time in the Hoyas’ mini-run throughout the tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Hester had yet to see his biggest moment, however. Georgetown’s run in the Big East failed to get them into the NCAA tournament, but gave them a first-round date with Virginia in the NIT.

And what a game it was. The triple overtime, 115-111 Georgetown saw a pair of players sidelined with injuries and three Hoyas foul out. This meant Hester had to play, and he had to play a lot.

He saw 32 minutes of action, scoring nine points and pulling down 10 rebounds. But it was his last three points that etched Hester into Georgetown basketball history. With the shot clock running down and the Hoyas needing to score, a momentary defensive lapse by Virginia left Hester open in the right corner and sealed the deal for Georgetown’s heroic victory.

Junior point guard Kevin Braswell will always be remembered for the 40 points he poured in, and the images of Lee Scruggs courtside being iced down and massaged are memorable, but it was a football-playing walk-on that turned out to be the hero.

But just a walk-on no longer, Hester became an instant name overnight for those who hadn’t heard of his exploits on the gridiron.

– Sean Gormley

Lee Scruggs

On Jan. 15, a lanky, 6-foot-10, 230-pound Lee Scruggs took the court against Miami in front of the MCI Center home crowd. Over the course of the game, Scruggs tallied a team high 16 points, eight rebounds and four blocks to lead the Hoyas to their first Big East victory of the season.

Quickly, Scruggs shed the stereotype of the chiseled athletic muscle-man who prowls the low post. He was versatile, admirable and an instant fan favorite. Scruggs emerged as a star in the second half of the season, and proved to be a vital cog of the 2000 team.

His star rose just as quickly in the eyes of the Georgetown fans, his trademark smile and on-court charisma winning over the students as he tussled down low before stepping out behind the three-point arc to drain the three-pointer. And as the raucous cheers of the Georgetown fans demonstrated, there is nothing quite as exciting as a 6-foot-10 center stepping out to the perimeter and sending a shot through the hoop.

Scruggs won not only over the favor of the fans, but also the favor of the coaches in the Big East, receiving Pre-Season All-Big East Second Team honors prior to the 2001 season.

Over the course of the second half of the season, Scruggs’ fame grew as he continued to turn in sensational performances. His 21 points and nine rebounds against Louisville led the Hoyas to a two-point victory over the Cardinals. His 14 points against West Virginia in the first round of last year’s Big East tournament held the Hoyas in the game despite the absence of Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje due to a foot injury. His 20 points and nine rebounds against Syracuse in the tournament’s second round helped lead the Hoyas to the biggest upset of the 2000 season.

And in this season’s matchup with the Orangemen at MCI center, after reduced playing time all season long, with the tide threatening to turn in favor of the opposition, Scruggs stepped up and drained a three-pointer stopping the Syracuse run cold. The Hoyas went on to secure the biggest victory to date in the 2001 season.

Lee Scruggs will leave campus after this season, possibly for the NBA. When he does, he will leave a lasting legacy of images – jogging back down the court while slowly nodding his head after hitting a clutch three-pointer against Syracuse in the Big East tournament last year, sitting on the sidelines for the first half of the 2001 season in a suit while his teamates leapt out to a 10-0 record, and, through it all, smiling.

– Mike Hume

Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje

He’s gone from a freshman sidelined by injury to an NBA prospect, from the seven-footer in Village C to the Big Man on Campus, from having his named misspelled and mispronounced to hearing it chanted at MCI Center. Since the Cameroon-native came to the Hilltop, he has undergone a remarkable public transformation, yet throughout it all has maintained his distinctive character.

Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje came to Georgetown after playing just one year of high school basketball in the United States. He then sat out his freshman season as a medical redshirt after sustaining a wrist injury against Miami in the Hoyas’ sixth game of the season. He saw just 80 minutes of game time.

As a sophomore, he started every game and began to move into the national spotlight. He led the team in shot blocks with 89 and was the team’s fourth leading scorer and second leading rebounder.

Last season was a breakthrough for Boumtje-Boumtje. He earned third team All-Big East honors and led the team in rebounding (7.7 per game) and blocks (78). He was second on the team in scoring. He notched a career-high seven blocks against Villanova and 32 points against Southern-New Orleans.

As co-captain of the Hoyas this season, Boumtje-Boumtje leads the team in blocked shots with 67 and averages 9.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

The Georgetown student body’s loyalty to Boumtje-Boumtje was proven earlier this season when he went through a dry spell, failing to score and getting just four rebounds in back-to-back games against Notre Dame and Syracuse. But when he hit a shot against West Virginia, his first field goal in 10 days, chants of “Ruben, Ruben,” echoed throughout MCI Center.

Beyond the hardwood, Boumtje-Boumtje has set himself apart from most Georgetown students with his approach to his schoolwork. He has excelled academically as a pre-med student. He serves as a tutor to other students, shines in his math and science classes and speaks several languages.

Although he is not known for spectacular dunks or flashy play, the 7-foot, 257-pound center has become an irreplaceable part of the Georgetown community in his four years on the Hilltop. When Ruben graduates in the spring, Georgetown will be losing more than a starting center. The soft-spoken “gentle giant” will move on to the NBA and an extraordinary future.

– Julie Wood

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