Charles Nailen/The Hoya In town for the NBA All-Star Game, Alonzo Mourning (CAS ’92) spoke to GU students in Gaston Hall.

Sidelined from this weekend’s NBA All-Star festivities as he fights kidney disease, Alonzo Mourning (CAS ’92) made an appearance in Gaston Hall on Friday. With basketball on the back burner these days, Mourning took advantage of Friday’s “Excellence Without Excuses” panel discussion as an opportunity to remain active in the community and interact with college students.

“I asked God to point me in the right direction because, evidently, he doesn’t want me to play basketball right now,” Mourning said. “So, I’m concentrating on staying active in my community.”

Georgetown students filled Gaston Hall nearly to capacity for “Excellence ithout Excuses,” which was presented by HBO and organized by the Hoya Hoop Club and Sports and Entertainment Solutions.

Mourning and the organizers designed the event to provide an open dialogue among students. They selected panelists from different aspects of society to discuss a variety of topics including career decisions, personal hardships and the value of education.

The event was co-hosted by TNT analyst and former University of North Carolina basketball star Kenny Smith and MTV VJ Ananda Lewis. In a town hall format, Smith presented questions for the panel and Lewis found students from the crowd who had questions of their own.

The event provided Mourning, along with the six other panelists, including recording artist Brian McKnight, a chance to reflect on issues of personal significance and potential motivation for the students in attendance. “I’m not [talking to students] because of notoriety,” Mourning said. “I want to promote progress. If I can gather all my colleagues, we can make that process a lot easier.”

The panel dealt with several issues including religion and identifying talent, but, as the event’s name suggests, speakers had the opportunity to explain their rise from adversity.

“Some of the worst stuff taught me the best lessons,” Lewis said.

Mourning described his initial experience at Georgetown as a struggle to focus on school rather than basketball.

“[My freshman year] it was pretty much all about basketball. I knew I wasn’t a dumb person,” he said. “I could do well in school if I wanted to, but I just didn’t put education first.”

The open forum format also allowed students to address the panel members individually. Ezra Richards (NUR ’03) asked the panelists to explain their experiences dealing with doubt.

“No matter what you do, you’re never going to please everyone,” McKnight said.

While some questions addressed the entire panel, several students wanted to hear specifically from Mourning. After a student asked him how his current illness has changed his outlook, Mourning discussed the mental effects of battling kidney disease.

“I can’t put a band-aid on [this illness]. I can’t put on a face mask like I did when I broke my nose,” Mourning said. “I’m in a position to fight and win [against] this disease. I talk to it every day. I hope the intimidation factor has set in by now.”

McKnight serenaded one student after a request from her friend. Hesitant at first, McKnight sang a verse of his hit, “Back at One” with the student sitting on the edge of the stage.

Lewis made a solo performance of her own. Attempting to bring closure to the event with a monologue, Lewis recited a portion of Nelson Mandela’s 1994 Inauguration speech.

“That was perfect,” Mourning said in response to Lewis’ choice.

Allen Iverson and Head Coach Emeritus John Thompson, who were originally scheduled to participate in the event, could not sit on the panel because of other commitments with the NBA All-Star Weekend, according to Director of Athletic Development Dave Sears (SFS ’89).

According to Sears, Thompson, who was present for the end of the discussion, was rehearsing for his commentating duties with TNT Sports.

“Allen [Iverson], unfortunately, could not make it,” Carmen Green of Sports and Entertainment Solutions said. “We all hoped that he could have been able to fit it in his schedule.”

Other panelists included Pastor Donnell Peterman of a local church, President of BrandNext James Andrews, Assistant Director of Athletics Adam Brick, television personality Judge Glenda Hatchett and Vice President of Talent Relations for TNT Sports Shannon cGauley.

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