Rarely has a basketball game in Baltimore evoked such local pride as tonight's contest between Georgetown and Morgan State at the Civic Center at 8.
The homecoming of Georgetown stars David Wingate and Reggie Williams, who both grew up in Baltimore and played at Dunbar High, even prompted Mayor William Donald Schaefer to pronounce it "Reggie Williams and David Wingate Day."
The smiles on the faces of Wingate and Williams when the subject of their homecoming was mentioned told just how they felt about playing in their hometown before their families and friends for the first time since high school.
"Yeah, I guess we'll have a few people there," Wingate understated.
Bob Wade, who coached Wingate and Williams in high school, said, "I'm not the only one who's proud of them. The entire community is proud of them. This is a chance for the people here to pay their respects to the kids."
Moving this "home game" to Baltimore is Georgetown's way of showing its appreciation for the contributions of Wingate, a senior, and Williams, a junior.
Williams returns leading the 13th-ranked Hoyas (19-5) in scoring and rebounding, a possible all-America; Wingate returns as the second-leading scorer and the leader in field goal percentage.
The last time Williams played competitively in Baltimore was in March 1983 on the same Civic Center floor as part of Baltimore's Metro Classic, Wade recalled.
"And the last game David played here," he added, "was the famous Dunbar-Calvert Hall triple overtime loss 94-91 ."
Georgetown has lost two straight, a rarity for a team that was 18-1 the last three years in February. This month, the Hoyas have lost to St. John's and Villanova.
But it would take a real upset for Morgan State (5-16) to extend Georgetown's losing streak. The Golden Bears' tallest player is 6 feet 6, or an inch shorter than Williams, who sometimes plays in the back court.
It has been a bizarre year for Morgan State's team, which played its first 12 games on the road.
"It would be one thing if we were playing on the road against teams at our level," Coach Nat Frazier said. Instead, the schedule -- "Unreal isn't it? It was made up before I got here," he said -- included stops at New Mexico, Texas-El Paso, Southern Methodist and Clemson.
The Golden Bears did win their first game at home, on Jan. 11 against South Carolina State, but were 0-12 by then.
"It didn't give our kids a chance to develop confidence," Frazier said. "You need to be at home and get at least a couple of wins. I'm real proud of how tough these kids played, but we were just in over our heads some nights."
That could be the case again tonight.
"Even though we lost a couple of games in the conference, I think we're getting better in a lot of areas," Williams said. "You can definitely see improvement since December and January."