By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 13, 2006
Shortly after midnight tonight, the Georgetown men's basketball team will trot onto the floor at McDonough Arena. There will be a John Thompson (III) standing on the sideline. There will be a Patrick Ewing (Jr.) wearing jersey number 33 on the court. And there will be expectations and a buzz surrounding the program that hasn't been felt since the first John Thompson and the first Patrick Ewing were winning games for the Hoyas.
As a result, the athletic department will broadcast the Midnight Madness event live on its Web site, so fans around the country can follow it. The audio from the event will be piped into the parking lot at McDonough, so those fans who can't get into the cozy gym will at least be able to hear what's going on.
"It's spread a lot," junior forward Jeff Green said of the attention he and his teammates have received over the past few months. "In the past, it wasn't like it is now. Since us emerging in the tournament, us beating Duke, that was a big thing. D.C. is supporting us now, and we're getting the support that Patrick Ewing and all them had. Everybody is behind us now."
Georgetown, which finished 23-10 overall and lost to eventual national champion Florida by four points in an NCAA regional semifinal, will almost certainly be ranked in the top 10 when the first national polls are released.
"I think you saw a glimpse last year," said junior guard Jonathan Wallace, a returning starter. "I think it opened people's eyes. You got kind of a glimpse of what we could do last year with beating Duke. But that was a regular season game. You still have more tournament games to go, and the ultimate goal is to win a championship. That's what we fell short of. In our minds, that's what we're shooting for, nothing less."
On the court, the Hoyas have significant holes to fill, particularly on the perimeter. Guard Ashanti Cook, forward Brandon Bowman and swingman Darrel Owens graduated; that trio contributed 29.4 points per game, and they accounted for over half of the team's production from three-point range (128 of the 223 made three-pointers). Over their careers, they made a combined 264 starts.
But the Hoyas have one of the best front courts in the nation, with Green and 7-foot-2 junior Roy Hibbert. They have a highly ranked class of newcomers, which includes high school all-Americans Vernon Macklin and DaJuan Summers, as well as junior transfer Patrick Ewing Jr.
"I think this group is extremely hungry," Coach John Thompson III said. "I think this group has the understanding that what other people expect, what other people say and think is in many ways irrelevant. It's our group; it's how much we can now fit the pieces together; it's how much we can now answer the questions that we have; and that's the only thing that's important."
The athletic department has already sold more season tickets than it had in any other season, except for 1982-83, when Patrick Ewing Sr. was a sophomore and the Hoyas were coming off of an appearance in the NCAA final. The number of student season tickets sold has almost doubled from last year's total, according to Georgetown director of marketing and ticket operations Kim Frank. The lower bowl of Verizon Center (the 100 and 200 levels) is virtually sold out, Frank said.
The program is celebrating its 100th anniversary season, and the occasion will be marked with a series of events throughout the year. In late September, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, a 1977 graduate of Georgetown, hosted an anniversary kickoff dinner at his house, which gave the juniors and seniors from the current team a chance to mingle with former players such as Ewing (1982-85), John and Lonnie Duren (1977-80), and Jaren Jackson (1986-89).
Green asked them to relate stories about what it was like when they played at Georgetown; they, in turn, told him that the current Hoyas were bringing back the tradition they helped create.
"You hear it from everybody, even from fans who didn't play a lick of basketball," Green said. "You're bringing back the tradition that Patrick Ewing [Sr.] had. Everybody has got your back, and that's a good thing to hear when you're walking around town."