Crazy, no, he hasn’t felt completely part of that family since he left the Hilltop for the NBA five years ago. “Something always felt missing,” he said Thursday as he climbed a steep metal ladder inside McDonough. Atop a perch where he could see Georgetown President John J. DeGioia giving a speech at senior convocation, Green looked longingly at the students in caps and gowns.
“Finally,” he said.
On Saturday morning, five years after he walked across a Manhattan stage as an NBA lottery pick, Green will traipse across a stage in his own cap and gown. Four years of summer school later — of five-day-a-week, two-hour lectures, papers and discussions — the No. 5 pick in the 2007 draft will be handed a diploma, his degree in English with a minor in theology.
“It’s one of the proudest moments of my life, you know, first person to graduate from college in my family — first person, really, from my neighborhood that I know of that got a four-year college degree,” Green said. “I know some people I grew up with that went to junior college, but I can’t remember anyone who got a four-year degree.
“I might cry. I might smile. I just know I’m going to feel proud I did it — one of the hardest things I ever did.”
Some of us, including many of Green’s ballplaying peers, might ask an obvious question: Why? Why return to college for a degree that could not possibly financially benefit you the way your current profession has?
Imagine signing a multimillion dollar contract at 21, which ostensibly would make you financially secure for life. Then picture the large-living existence of the NBA: Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons’ maids make your bed, the team secretary makes your travel plans, you never have to fly coach for work, or even print out your boarding pass the night before.
“The obvious answer is the average NBA career only lasts four years and it’s nice to have a backup plan. But for me , it was more than that,” Green said. “A lot of it was watching Jonathan Wallace and Tyler Crawford and Pat Ewing [Jr.] and all the guys I was close with when they graduated. It really hurt that I didn’t get my degree. I decided I needed to go back and do it.
“Honestly, there are times when I regretted not staying. I’d see the Davidson game [which Georgetown lost in the second round of the 2008 NCAA tournament] and think, ‘Man, if I was there, we wouldn’t [have] lost to them,’ or something like that. But most of the time, it was just that I didn’t get to have a graduation day with my closest friends. I was actually lonely that first year, when I got drafted by Boston and traded to Seattle. That was all the way across the country. I’d be sitting in apartment, in some city I didn’t know, thinking, ‘Why did I leave?’ ”