Watkins Reflects Triumphs Of GU’s Program

By Sean P. Flynn Hoya Staff Writer

Perhaps the Georgetown basketball program’s greatest contribution to the sport is in the NBA. While the Hoyas boast one national title and three Final Four appearances, since 1990, Georgetown has made the Elite Eight only one time. The Hoyas haven’t even made it to the NCAA Tournament since 1996.

Yet, Georgetown continues to leave an indelible mark on professional basketball. In the eyes of the NBA, Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85), Alonzo Mourning (COL ’92) and Dikembe Mutumbo (FLL ’91) are not just all stars, they’re Hoyas, a word that still brings a shudder to the NBA.

The meaning of Hoya got another boost this weekend at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia, where reserve center Jameel Watkins played as a substitute for Connecticut’s Jake Voskuhl. The fifth-year senior, whose playing time declined in direct correlation to his performance, was one of the stars of the tournament, averaging more than 12 points and nine rebounds and impressing scouts with shot blocking, rebounding and – get this – a mid-range jumper. In the championship game, Watkins scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds en route to an All-Tournament selection.

“He opened everybody’s eyes,” New York Knicks general manager Scott Layden said in Monday’s editions of USA Today. “He helped himself here. It’s so hard to find big guys.”

Watkins’ most appreciated attribute was a strong work ethic and adaptive abilities, considering his back-up status. Billy McKinney, the Seattle SuperSonics’ vice president of basketball operations said, “When you get your opportunity, you have to take advantage of it. A lot of players would have been insulted being a substitute. He wasn’t.”

Georgetown’s success during the season has dwindled in the last several years, but, because of the hard work and discipline that comes with the Hoya name, the meaning of Hoya in the NBA is just as strong as it was when Mourning and Mutumbo were drafted nearly 10 years ago.

Jahidi White (COL ’98) had anything but a star-studded college career, and he spent his final year at Georgetown with a cast on his foot. Now, while one-time all-star Ike Austin whines on the bench, White is the starting center for the Washington Wizards, averaging seven points and seven rebounds a game. Journeyman Jaren Jackson was an important part of the 1999 World Champion San Antonio Spurs. Jerome Williams (COL ’96), Don Reid and Othella Harrington (COL ’96) are all major contributors for their teams.

While in terms of wins and losses Georgetown may not be the dominating presence it once was in the collegiate basketball, the fact is that Georgetown is still one of the greatest places to get a basketball education. The rigorous work ethic that is highlights Georgetown hoops is obviously still around, as Watkins’ eye-opening performance this weekend showed. White has proven that he will work hard to do whatever he can to help the Wizards, and now he is one of new part-owner Michael Jordan’s favorites.

Georgetown is often criticized for taking so many under-qualified students on its basketball team, and those criticisms become louder when the Hoyas are not winning. But what Watkins – who sat out his freshman year because he was academically ineligible but spent his fifth year in graduate school – underscores is the strength of Georgetown as a place to not only get an education but also to learn basketball.

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