By Joseph White
Friday, February 25, 2011; 3:26 PM
There are more than 100 trophies, plaques, statues and other mementos won by various Georgetown sports teams in the John Thompson Lobby at McDonough Memorial Gymnasium, including awards earned by the baseball, soccer, golf, track and field and cross-country teams.
And, of course, rows upon rows are dedicated to men's basketball, including nets that have been cut down after the biggest wins, most of them overseen by the longtime Hall of Fame coach whose name is part of a mural near the lobby's ceiling.
Not a single item in any of the trophy cases was won by the women's basketball team.
"I've got two more years. We're going to get something in there," sophomore Sugar Rodgers said. "Even if I've got to put one of my trophies in there."
It still might be news to some people, but, yes, Georgetown has a women's basketball team. They play in 2,000-seat McDonough, not the 20,000-seat Verizon Center that hosts the men's games. They're a casual, accessible bunch who sit for interviews perched on an equipment room window, unlike the formal settings preferred by the "Hoya paranoia" men.
"It was bad to be a coach and work just as hard every day and have somebody say, 'You play at Georgetown? I didn't know they had a women's team,'" coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. "Now all of the air is absolutely sucked out of you."
The identity crisis is on the wane. A year ago, the Hoyas broke into The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 1993 and for only the second time in school history. Now they are a mainstay in the polls, sitting at No. 18 this week with a 21-7 record heading into Saturday's home game against No. 1 Connecticut.
"Now we don't get the question: 'You've got women's basketball at Georgetown?'" Williams-Flournoy said. "Now they ask you, 'Hey, where are you ranked?' 'What's your record?' 'We saw you on TV last night.'"
Senior Monica McNutt said she was sheepish to even admit she played for the women's team when she was a freshman.
"Some of the dissension I remember my freshman year has been weeded out," McNutt said. "Women's basketball at Georgetown is now relevant."
The turnabout can be summed up in two words: speed and Sugar.
"My first three years, we were boring," Williams-Flournoy said. "They were boring to me. Let's walk the ball up the court. Let's set up the offense. Oh, my God, it's so boring."
After scratching out a WNIT bid in 2009, Williams-Flournoy called together her assistants and said that's not the way she ever envisioned coaching. The style was going to change. Press full-court, half-court. Pressure for 40 minutes. Run in transition the whole game. Enough of the set plays: If the players work hard on defense, then everybody gets the green light on offense. She got advice from Thompson, who told her to expect balls to go flying into the stands - because playing fast is hard.
"It's great when it works. It is awful when it's not," McNutt said. "High-risk, high-reward."
It's entertaining but maddening at the same time. When the Hoyas beat then-No. 8 West Virginia last month, the teams combined for more turnovers (51) than made field goals (40).
To make it work, Williams-Flournoy had to have athletes. It's a scheme that works only if everyone is in tiptop shape. The prize recruit is Rodgers, who has been called Sugar practically since birth and was a very good golfer by the time she was 12 before discovering her talent for basketball.
Rodgers played in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia for Williams-Flournoy's brother and renowned AAU coach Boo Williams and would have her game critiqued by the person she lovingly calls "Momma Boo" - Terri and Boo's mother. With that kind of comfort level, it was an easy choice to spurn the offers from more established women's programs and head to Georgetown.
Rodgers was a five-time Big East rookie of the week last season and has been conference player of the week twice this season. She's the type of star who can draw bigger crowds to McDonough and, perhaps one day, get the women a game at the Verizon Center as part of a doubleheader with the men.
Should that ever happen, it would be easier for Williams-Flournoy and the current men's coach, John Thompson III, to exchange pregame best wishes. The two coaches were hired in the same year - 2004 - and they often text each other to offer congratulations or compare notes. Williams-Flournoy even runs one backdoor play Thompson taught her from his Princeton offense, a rare crossover between their two distinct styles of play.
"JT3 is a great coach. I would be absolutely stupid not to be able to sit down and talk with him, not to be able to go over stuff with him," Williams-Flournoy said.
The payoff will come on the day the women have something to put in one of those trophy cases.
"We're the hidden treasure, right?" McNutt said. "Now, to our credit, you step inside our gym, you have our banner, when we returned to the (NCAA) tournament last year. It's a little lonely over there, but it's there. ... Achieving something is one thing, but maintaining that success is a whole 'nother thing. Going forward, that's going to be the trick to this program."