By Mike Wise
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Dikembe Mutombo still talks about the youngster he scored over during a pickup game at McDonough Gymnasium this past summer. The kid leapt high to try and block the shot, but Deek's pride was more substantial than the Georgetown undergrad's vertical.
In that baritone voice of his, which sounds much like the Cookie Monster, Mutombo bellowed, "That was for your father!"
"I thought that was hilarious," Patrick Ewing Jr. said. "He shows up, and it's like a blast from the past. Dikembe has that deep voice and you can hardly understand what he's saying anyway.
"For the next week and a half, everybody just kept teasing me about it. 'That was for your father. That was for your father.' "
At Verizon Center this afternoon, the public-address announcer will say the name "Patrick Ewing," and a 6-foot-8, hyperkinetic junior forward will dart onto the court to play his first game for the university his father turned into a feared powerhouse more than 20 years ago.
Patrick Aloysius Ewing Jr. will play for John Thompson III, the son of the man who coached Patrick Sr.
John Thompson Jr., of course, is the patriarch of the Hoyas' basketball family. And at Georgetown, we mean family.
Big John regales you with tales about "Big Patrick changing Little Patrick's diapers in the basketball office" and so much more.
"I had this little memorabilia doll Al Maguire sent me, and if you pulled its pants down and filled it up with water it actually took a leak," John Thompson Jr. was saying Thursday afternoon after he finished his radio show. "Well, little Patrick would run into my office, pull that doll's pants down, see it urinate real quick and laugh like hell. Then he'd run out of my office, come back and do it again. You ask him about it; he'll smile."
Little Pat won't start today. He's a slashing, high-energy player who for now is more suited to changing the game off the bench. After deciding to transfer from Indiana, where he had a falling out with former coach Mike Davis after two seasons, he got a call from Thompson within hours after he received his release papers.
They never spoke about living up to namesakes. The coach was in the middle of refurbishing a program sculpted from his pop's will. And the chances of the recruit measuring up to his dad -- scoring 2,184 points, hauling down 1,316 rebounds, maliciously rejecting 493 shots and leading his team to three appearances in the NCAA championship game -- was pretty much out of the question; Patrick Jr. has but two years of eligibility remaining.
Also, there was no way the kid was going with that retro side-part his dad wore. Way too '80s.
Patrick Jr. basically visited campus, liked the coach and the kids he was going to play with, and that was that. Bloodline nostalgia took a back seat to playing opportunity.
"Coach knows it better than I do; it's not about the past," Patrick Jr. said. "It's what we do now. It's Georgetown Hoyas, 2006-2007 -- not the Georgetown Hoyas in the '80s."
Still, to bone up on tradition, the kid recently watched old Hoyas tapes, back as far as John Duren and Craig Shelton. He forgot his father had hops until he saw the original Hoya Destroya throw down one of the nastiest dunks imaginable on a Kentucky player.
Patrick Jr. took an anthropology course last semester and was honored when Gwendolyn Mikell, the professor, told him his father was one of her favorite students.
"That's when I feel proud to be his son," he said. "Around here, he's known and thought of very highly. People like him a lot. It's a good feeling."
Big John wishes people wouldn't do the kid a disservice by asking him, "Don't you need to carve out your own identity?"
"You put people on the defensive with that question," he said. "It's a head game that society plays with you. Too many people fail when they try to become their own man. There's nothing wrong with trying to live up to your father if he accomplished great things. I have a picture of my father in my kitchen I look at every day. I hope I can live up to that man."
Patrick Sr. will attend his son's first Georgetown game, bringing along Patrick Jr.'s two half-sisters and a nervous feeling in his gut.
"It's not like he can hide from the fact he's my son; he's had to deal with that his whole life," Patrick Sr. said in a telephone interview from New York yesterday.
"It's funny: You feel invincible when you're the parent and you're going about your way. But when it's your own kids, you're very vulnerable. You want the best for them."
The legend and the prodigy went one-on-one a few years ago in Orlando. At the end of Ewing's NBA career, Patrick Jr. was growing into his gangly body and becoming a formidable foe.
"I finally beat him one game," Patrick Jr. said.
"He skunked me. He just started backing me down. Me, I'm 16, 102 pounds soaking wet, so I couldn't do too much. But I always tell him, 'I did beat you that one time.' And he can't say he wasn't playing hard because he was."
Patrick Sr. laughed and said: "I got tired so I let him win that game. After that, I had to show him I'm still the man. I beat him outside, down low. I did it all. I let him know I run the show."
They have not played since, which is a good thing for Patrick Sr.
"He's old now," Little Pat said. "I'd hurt him."
Big Pat: "Uh, he might."
The other day, Patrick Jr. walked toward the same training room where his dad received treatment two decades ago. Bill Shapland, the school's senior sports communications director, is the person to whom his father made him say, "Hi, Mr. Shapland," while Patrick Sr. was working out during an NBA offseason.
McDonough has lots of stories like that. You half-expect Ray Liotta to come walking through the bleachers or James Earl Jones to talk about what the game means here. It's where Big John once informed a disconsolate Patrick Sr. that his mother had passed away.
He recently told Patrick Jr. how he got a first-generation Jamaican to come to Georgetown from frigid Boston.
" 'You know, to get your father here, I told him there was no snow in Washington,' " Big John remembers telling Little Pat. "And then winter came around and he said: 'What is this? I thought you said . . . ' Patrick Jr. laughed like hell at that one."
"Tying it all together," Big John added, "John being there, Patrick Jr. being there, the history, Patrick's mom passing, all those things, you do have some kind of emotional attachment to all that."