An Applebee’s is where I watched Greg Monroe and my beloved Hoyas fall to No. 14 seed Ohio in 2010. In 2011, it was in a packed but silent Village A in which I witnessed Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Julian Vaughn lose to Cinderella Virginia Commonwealth. Last year, my heart was broken by NC State in a nearly empty Henle apartment, in what turned out to be Hollis Thompson’s final game in the Georgetown gray.

The heartbreaks have been experienced in different locations but have all followed an eerily similar pattern in my college career. Georgetown has always started under the radar, stormed into the top 10 after an 11-1 start to the season, faltered down the stretch and ultimately broken our hearts in the NCAA tournament while still surpassing all preseason expectations.

Throughout this cycle, we Hoyas have been granted front-row seats to a roller coaster ride that ought to create a lifetime of memories. Year after year, Georgetown has lined up against the biggest names in college hoops as an underdog and walked away with respect and victories. From the upset of eventual champion Duke in the spring of 2010 to our overtime loss against No. 1 ranked Indiana just a few weeks ago, our boys have never shied away from a challenge.

As a result of that, they have managed to carry on the Georgetown legacy to this day, almost 30 years since our only national championship and six seasons removed from our last Final Four appearance. Players like Patrick Ewing or Allen Iverson  — all of whom dominated game in and game out — may never come to the Hilltop again, but John Thompson III’s focus on attitude has circumvented this shortcoming in favor of making his teams more than the sum of their parts.

The Georgetown squads that grinded games out in Verizon Center during my career here are case in point for focus helping overcome a lack of talent. With the exception of Greg Monroe, no top-10 recruit has been on Georgetown’s roster, yet the team has consistently found itself in the top 10 each season. Despite losing Hollis Thompson, Jason Clark and Henry Sims from last year’s team, the Hoyas are currently perched just outside the top 10 only a few weeks into this season thanks to Otto Porter’s NBA-caliber skills paired with the exceptional play of Markel Starks, Nate Lubick and Greg Whittington.

Player development at Georgetown is leaps and bounds ahead of most teams across the country. The Henry Sims who tore up the Big East last season as a senior was unrecognizable compared to the struggling center he was his freshman year. The same could be said about current NBA All-Star Roy Hibbert, who transformed himself into a worthy pro over his four-year Georgetown career. Similarly, Nate Lubick’s offensive polish this season has finally caught up with the promise he showed as a freshman.

While other programs boast impressive facilities and a one-year stop before entering the pros, Georgetown offers its players the chance to develop as a team and within a team.

The offer comes with one string attached, however: that each and every player is willing to put in the work. This was evident when Starks sat out significant minutes towards the end of last season after not hustling at the very end of the Seton Hall game last year. This year, Starks is the Hoyas’ leading scorer and is averaging 32.6 minutes per game as the leader of Georgetown’s exceptional guards.

With that mentality, players like sophomore Jabril Trawick — rated as only the No. 23 shooting guard coming out of high school — have found a fit and success at Georgetown, where hustle and determination are rewarded. With the deterioration of the Big East imminent, the Hoyas may continue to struggle going forward in landing the top recruit when going up against teams like Kentucky. In my time on the Hilltop, however, JTIII has shown he can win without players like Nerlens Noel.

With my final semester at Georgetown drawing to a close, I no longer will get the opportunity to experience America’s hardest working basketball team as a student. In my time, I would have enjoyed bonding around a dominating presence like Patrick Ewing and winning a national championship, but the Hoya teams I witnessed were far more than a consolation prize.

Watching a team of players develop each year from unranked underdog to a top-10 power has more than made up for the NCAA tournament shortcomings that have followed.  From Ewing to Porter Jr., Georgetown basketball has a rich history and a promising future as long as players continue to put in the work needed to lift their teams above expectations every single season.

 

Corey Blaine is a senior in the McDonough School of Business. This is the final appearance of THE BLEACHER SEATS.

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