The best Georgetown basketball game I have seen in my three years on the Hilltop took place in Charlottesville, Va. The Hoyas had made the National Invitational Tournament, drawing a strong Virginia team in the first round that really should have been playing in a bigger tournament. I decided to ignore an anthropology paper and hopped on a bus for the three-hour ride to University Hall. The game that night lasted a bit longer than expected: It included two halves and three tense overtimes in which the lead went back and forth constantly. In the final period, a walk-on football player named Gharun Hester (MSB ’01) hit a three-pointer in the waning seconds to put the Hoyas ahead for good.

Georgetown students rejoiced in the stands, some even spilling onto the court in celebration. Lee Scruggs and Kevin Braswell (COL ’02) had to be given fluids intravenously they were so dehydrated after running for virtually an hour of basketball, but you knew they were happy. The Hoyas had come into hostile territory and knocked off a team they were never supposed to beat. This happened, in my opinion, not because the Georgetown team was more talented than the Cavaliers that season; they weren’t. It happened because the Hoyas played with more heart.

The next week, Georgetown traveled out to the West Coast to take on California in the second round. The Hoyas came out absolutely flat and got beaten by a sub par Golden Bears team I thought they would certainly beat after the way they played against UVA.

Unfortunately, coming out flat was nothing new for that year’s team. With the exception of Braswell and Nathaniel Burton (MSB ’01), it seemed at times like the team was trying to play with as little emotion as possible. Great plays were followed by nonchalant high-fives and pats on the rear, not by shouts or chest-bumps from teammates. At times, I was not sure that players were even excited about taking the court for Georgetown, a school with one of the richest basketball histories in the nation. There were even times where I was pretty sure I did not want to be in the stands.

The next season, however, saw some more emotion on the court. I cannot forget, for example, Wesley Wilson swatting a shot away against Louisville and then turning and screaming right at a television camera. In the NCAA tournament that year, the Hoyas came out flat against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first round, but the team’s most emotional player, Burton, was there to win it at the end. Holding on to the ball rather than passing it to Braswell (which the Hoyas had done in every single close game that season without a high degree of success), Burton waited at the top of the key until only a couple of seconds remained on the clock, then drove the lane and put in a layup as time expired. His teammates jumped off the bench and mobbed him under the basket. Back in the District, people ran around campus chanting “Hoya Saxa.” It was great.

Last season, Georgetown was picked to finish first in its division in the Big East by the conference’s coaches. They knew that the Hoyas had two of the best players in the league in ike Sweetney and Braswell, and that their supporting cast wasn’t too shabby either. When the national rankings came out, Georgetown was in them. Everyone thought that a second-straight trip to the Sweet 16 was inevitable. In their first test of the season, however, against a good Georgia team, the Hoyas came out on the court looking as if they did not want to be there. Later in the season, losses in close games, some reminiscent of the one they had won in Charlottesville my freshman year, kept Georgetown from making the NCAA tournament.

So although you’ll read a lot in this basketball preview issue about how the Hoya frontcourt matches up with other Big East opponents, or how the team needs to improve its shooting percentage from three-point range, the key to this season is playing with heart. Georgetown has had the talent in previous seasons, but this year the national media will not give it any respect because they do not think that the Hoyas will play to their potential. The way for Georgetown to gain true respect, not only from the media, but from students and the fans in the District, is to show everyone just how serious they are about success.

When the Hoyas missed the dance last season, Esherick told the team to remember how they felt, then to not let it happen again this year. Although the team has done a lot of important work over the off season with that in mind, they also need to come onto the court every single game with that feeling in the back of their heads. When Georgetown plays with heart, Georgetown wins basketball games.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.