Sitting courtside as he watches his son dive for loose balls and fight for rebounds, Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) is friendly and approachable. He smiles easily, jokes with the fans sitting next to him and is happy to sign autographs for the children who approach him after the game, all too young to have seen him play for the Hoyas.

Yet 25 years ago, when Ewing was just beginning his illustrious career on the Hilltop, he had a very different demeanor. With a steely gaze and a chip on his shoulder, Ewing was soon to become the most feared player in all of college basketball.

Ewing arrived at Georgetown in the fall of 1981 amid controversy. Questions swirled about the academic ability of the heavily-recruited Jamaican immigrant from Cambridge, Mass. During the recruiting process, letters had been sent out to prospective schools about his academic deficiencies and accusations flew that Georgetown had sacrificed its rigorous academic standards to land a basketball star.

Georgetown stood by its new center, however, and insisted that no academic concessions were made for the 7-footer, even as Boston University Head Coach Rick Pitino claimed a student like Ewing would not have been accepted at BU. Ewing belonged at Georgetown, University President Rev. Timothy Healy, S.J., said, and anyone who claimed anything different simply did not know what they were talking about.

Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson Jr. – always suspicious and secretive – did little to help improve Ewing’s image at first. Thompson held closed practices and kept Ewing off-limits to the media, drawing more accusations that the university was hiding something and that the freshman was not smart enough to be a Hoya.

But when he stepped onto the court, the critics were silenced almost immediately. There was no doubt about Ewing’s ability to produce. In his first year in the Blue and Gray, Ewing averaged 12.7 points per game, posted119 blocks and was named both the Big East defensive player of the year and the rookie of the year. He led the Hoyas to the NCAA title game and, with his and his teammates’ physical play, began the phenomenon known as “Hoya Paranoia.”

Over the next three years Ewing dominated college basketball. Striking fear into the hearts of opponents with his tough defensive play, Ewing led the Hoyas to the national title in 1984 and then back to the title game in 1985, only to be upset by the Villanova Wildcats in one of the best games ever played in all of March adness.

In each of those three years, Ewing was named a consensus All-American and to the all-Big East first team for three straight seasons. Ewing was also selected Big East player of the year in both his junior and senior seasons and was the national player of the year in 1985.

Over the span of his four-year career on the Hilltop, Ewing played in a Georgetown-record 143 games. He averaged 15.3 points per game, and finished his career with 2,184 points, good enough to be ranked second all-time in scoring. He also collected 1,316 rebounds and blocked 493 shots, both all-time records for the Hoyas.

While still an undergrad, Ewing would play on an even bigger stage than March Madness could provide, when in 1984 he starred as the center for the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team. On the last Olympic team composed of college athletes, Ewing led the tournament with 18 blocked shots in eight games.

After graduation – which he says was his proudest moment on the Hilltop – Ewing was selected by the New York Knicks as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. As a Knick he would go on to be rookie of the year in 1986 and eventually an 11-time All Star. In 1996 he was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history and finished his career as the game’s 15th all-time scorer with 24,815 points.

But beyond the statistics and accolades, Ewing means more to Georgetown than points or blocked shots or national titles ever could: he put Georgetown on the map.

Before Ewing, Georgetown was just a small Jesuit university on the banks of the Potomac. After Ewing, it was the place to be, for academics as well as for basketball. For four years Ewing put Hoya Paranoia on national television and made the Hoyas a household name.

Ewing also made himself a role model to those players who would come after him. After all the doubts about his academic ability, Ewing graduated on time and went on to be the President of the NBA Players Association from 1997-2000. He proved to all the skeptics that he, too, belonged at Georgetown.

Today, watching his son wear number 33 for the Blue and Gray, Ewing looks little like the skinny center with the kneepads and flattop haircut that arrived on the Hilltop all those years ago. But the program he helped to create lives on, and is still searching for that second national title.

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