Monica McNutt is an outspoken leader for Georgetown's women's team

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 26, 2011; 12:14 AM

There was never any doubt Monica McNutt was going to play for Georgetown, especially not after she was the ball girl at a Georgetown-Syracuse men's game and Carmelo Anthony sweated on her.

"I was obsessed with - obsessed with - little-girl obsessed" with Anthony, the Hoyas senior guard said. "My mom said I told her: 'He sweated on me. I'm never washing this shirt.'

"I don't remember who won [the game]. I just remember 'Melo."

Though Hoyas fans are probably still smarting over Anthony's 30 points and 15 rebounds in the Orange's 93-84 overtime win that day in 2003, they can be grateful the Syracuse star's perspiration helped propel McNutt to Georgetown.

Now as her career winds down - she'll play her final home game against top-ranked Connecticut on Saturday afternoon - McNutt will leave Georgetown having stamped an indelible mark on a program she helped revive.

Before McNutt arrived, Georgetown hadn't been to the postseason since 1993. This season, not only will the No. 18 Hoyas (21-7, 9-5 Big East) be making their third consecutive trip to the postseason, but they have spent the entire season ranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll.

"I always wanted to go to a program that's on the brink," the former Academy of the Holy Cross standout said, "and have my name be a part of it."

No women's basketball player has played more games in a Georgetown uniform than McNutt, who grew up in Suitland. But that's not the reason she's important to this team. Nor is it her scoring - though she's second on the team at 10.8 points per game - or her defense.

"Goodness, that's been something I've had to work at," she said. "I wasn't quite the lock-up defender [when she came to Georgetown], and honestly, I'm probably still not."

What makes McNutt so valuable to the Hoyas is her leadership. Few young women her age are as strong, fearless and outspoken as she is. There's nothing wishy-washy about McNutt. Whether you want her opinion or not, she'll give it to you.

"It's been a poison I've had to learn to take, and I'm going to call it a poison because it got me in a lot of trouble, especially growing up," McNutt said. "My mom told me: 'Monica, you've got to pick your battles wisely. You're not necessarily wrong, but sometimes your opinion doesn't matter, for one, and sometimes it doesn't need to be known.' "

That's been a challenging lesson for McNutt to learn. There was the day in practice her freshman year when she was upset because Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy was yelling at her. McNutt went to assistant coach Keith Brown and said: "The love affair is over. I'm ready for the divorce."

Though everyone laughs about that one now, two other incidents left painful scars. After a 70-33 loss at Pittsburgh to end a 15-14 season, McNutt, then a freshman, lashed out in the locker room.

"I was the one who started the ruckus that ended the season," McNutt said. "I just felt like, 'You all quit,' so I go off. It was just a mess. . . . That was one I shouldn't have taken on."

Then there was the 74-58 loss at home to Louisville her sophomore season.

"I remember telling [Williams-Flournoy] I felt like they gave up on us as coaches," McNutt said. "I probably shouldn't have said that."

McNutt regretted her blunt words and has learned to temper her comments to coaches and teammates. But Williams-Flournoy has been careful not to stifle her.

"That's the thing with Monica: She needed that voice to be a good leader because to be a good leader, you've got to be able to say exactly how you feel about what somebody is doing or not doing," Williams-Flournoy said. "I didn't want to take it all completely away from Monica.

"Now Moni is my voice. I know if Moni's talking to the team or she's meeting with the team, I know Monica is saying it exactly the way I would say it. I feel comfortable with Moni being my voice to the team because she understands now."

There's no question McNutt is who she is because of her parents, Kevin and Desiree McNutt, whose love and unconditional support have given her a strong self-confidence.

"They've always been ready to make sacrifices for [her and her sister], to support us," McNutt said, and then pauses as tears begin to tumble down her cheeks. "I can't imagine having to do this without them."

Williams-Flournoy also can't imagine how she's going to get along without McNutt next season.

"It's going to be very hard to replace her presence," Williams-Flournoy said. "I don't think there are any more Monicas. Moni is definitely in a world of her own."

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