A 2006 rule change in the NBA draft stipulated that players must be both 19 years old and one year removed from high school in order to declare for the draft. As a result, we now live in an era of one-and-done players in college basketball.
With a plethora of one-year college stars like Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, John Wall, Derrick Rose and DeMarcus Cousins, the NCAA has become, for better or for worse, a necessary stepping stone to the NBA. Because of their talent, the aforementioned players could very well have skipped college and been drafted into the NBA. Instead, they were forced to attend one year of university, which became a year they used to improve their games and attempt to win an NCAA championship. Only Anthony Davis, of those names, succeeded in achieving the latter.
Traditional programs are becoming a minority in the NCAA, and, even worse, they are becoming increasingly unsuccessful in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin is part of a minority of schools that tends to keep players for four years, but even a group of seniors could not bring down the likes of Duke’s star freshmen power. In a game that proved representative of college basketball today, the young guns of Duke toppled the fan favorite and symbol of what many think the college game should be.
Nevertheless, in this era of one-and-dones in college basketball, Georgetown stands out from the crowd.
While Georgetown has sent its fair share of collegiate players to the pros, including Patrick Ewing, Sleepy Floyd, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Allen Iverson, Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe, Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson and Otto Porter, Georgetown has also done more for its student-athletes than just help them become better basketball players — all while continuing its winning program.
Though the program has not been past the Sweet 16 since 2007’s Final Four run, nearly every year, the Hoyas have brought their A-game for the regular season. Georgetown and the Thompson family are still considered basketball royalty, the Hoyas still land highly touted forward and center recruits and the team is able to overcome challenges in its schedule, evidenced by its dismantling of upstart Eastern Washington in the tournament.
Being Georgetown means being a school that values something greater than basketball. While the Kentuckys and the Dukes of the world are crafting players who are intent on going straight to the pros after one season, Georgetown is molding them into better men. Starting with Iverson in the mid 1990s, the program has helped save players’ lives and give them second chances. It has imparted the values of a school built on making men and women for others, showed players the importance of education and fostered a unique sense of community.
Unlike many of the basketball alumni of blue-blood programs like Kentucky, Kansas and Duke, players come back to the Hilltop to finish what they started. Jeff Green (COL ’12) and DaJuan Summers (COL ’10) came back to earn their degrees after leaving early for the pros in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Even players who did leave early but have not yet come back to graduate still represent the Georgetown values everywhere they go. Otto Porter, drafted third overall in 2013, has been seen buying lunch for and eating with homeless people around D.C,. showing a level of care that is atypical of stereotypical self-centered NBA players.
In perhaps one of the most touching college basketball stories in recent memory, Georgetown and Head Coach John Thompson III gave senior Tyler Adams an experience he probably would have missed at another school. Diagnosed with a medical condition that rendered him unable to play in his freshman year, Adams could have easily lost his scholarship to make room for a physically able player, but Thompson let him keep his scholarship and bestowed invaluable coaching experience onto Adams. When Adams suited up for one play on Senior Day, the eyes of the nation were on Georgetown and Seton Hall, who, in an incredible display of sportsmanship, let Adams slam it home before being subbed out of the game.
Does Georgetown have the year-in-and-year-out caliber of NBA talent that Kentucky does? No. But when the national spotlight turned toward Georgetown basketball as Adams embraced Thompson and the entire team and tears rolled down his face and the faces of many others in the Verizon Center, it was clear that Georgetown basketball was about more than any one game. Despite the upsets, the criticism and anything else pundits may say, at the end of the day, “Hoya Saxa” means more than basketball. And it always will.
Paolo Santamaria is a freshman in the College. SAXA SYNERGY appears every Friday.
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