The full-court drive and layup say Horace Broadnax's sprained back has healed. The zig-zag movement of Michael Jackson says his sore thigh feels better. And there couldn't have been any better news yesterday for Georgetown, because in NCAA tournament play, having a pair of wise, able senior guards is important, and having a healthy back court is a necessity.
These are the final days for Jackson and Broadnax, a guard duo that has seen Georgetown through much success and many transitions. In four years, Jackson has gone from a shooting guard who scored 31 points as a freshman against Syracuse to a playmaker; Broadnax has gone from 10th man as a freshman to an invaluable starter whose full value isn't realized until he isn't playing.
The pairing of guards isn't always easy. "Sometimes you see kids who come in and you say to yourself, 'These two kids will fit together perfectly,' and it just doesn't work," Coach John Thompson said yesterday. "But they've done a tremendous job, without a doubt, and in their case it has more to do with their attitudes."
That they got to play together at all is a wonder.
Jackson, from Reston, was well-known in the Washington area because he was an All-Met player at South Lakes High. But many people were puzzled when he chose to attend Georgetown. "I heard people wondering whether I had the talent to play here," Jackson recalled. "Horace came in with a lot higher credentials than I had. And David Wingate had all the credentials.
"Northern Virginia players don't get much respect, anyway, so I was fairly used to that. I like going in being the underdog. And that's the role I was thrown into when I first got here. But when I first got here I was like, 'Wow, just get a good education.' "
The questions about Jackson's talent stopped when he scored 31 points in the Carrier Dome.
Broadnax, from Plant City, Fla., was an unknown who almost didn't make his recruiting visit to Georgetown. "When I got to the airport in Tampa , the ticket agent told me there was no ticket left in my name, so I turned around and started to leave the airport and just forget about the whole thing. But my sister said, 'Wait a minute, let's find out what's going on here.' And they found the ticket after a while, and I made it here."
Jackson said he and Broadnax are very similar in one aspect. "Temperament," Jackson said. "Horace is very laid back, I'm sorta laid back. But being around here, Coach Thompson takes that out of you pretty fast."
There are also a lot of differences.
Jackson is the urbane, upper middle-class kid who upon graduation probably should forget about graduate school (which he plans to attend) and embark upon a career as a model. Jackson has to be the best-dressed player in basketball, pro or college. No jock wardrobe, only Britches, plus the best collection of European-cut suits and paisley ties this side of Peter Ueberroth.
Broadnax, another MBA candidate, grew up, in his words, "running barefoot around the countryside until I was 12, playing Tarzan in the woods, getting bumped and bruised, having fun."
He says now that coming to Georgetown was "the best decision I'd made in my whole short life. I'm from a small town, and I had a small way of thinking. After four years, I can't believe my world revolved around Plant City. I needed my horizons broadened.
"My father's father had a farm. And I worked on it just enough to know that getting out in that hot sun, early in the morning till sundown -- now that's hard work. That's one reason I wanted to come to Georgetown. I told my sisters one day, 'Nooo, I ain't cut out to be a farmer.' "
Broadnax doesn't necessarily think of himself as a basketball player. When a reporter suggests that he will be drafted in the second round and have a shot at making a lot of money in professional basketball, Broadnax laughs. "You know, a lot of people have been telling me that lately," he said. "If that happens, fine. But that's not what I've gotten out of this place. I never knew I'd establish the relationships with professors and students from all these different worlds like I have.
"But I'm not going to kid you -- I love to play."
Importantly, for Georgetown, both love to play and do it well. Except for the two games Broadnax missed in last week's Big East tournament, the Jackson/Broadnax tandem has started every game this season. Jackson, 6 feet 2, is shooting 53 percent from the field, outstanding considering most of his shots come from 15 to 22 feet out.
Broadnax, one of Florida's leading scorers as a high school senior, was a defensive specialist for most of his first three years. With Fred Brown and Gene Smith on the team for two years, plus Reggie Williams and David Wingate being able to play in the back court, Broadnax didn't get a lot of floor time the first three seasons. That made it all the more remarkable when earlier this season he volunteered to give up some of his playing time so one of the front-court players might be ready by the postseason.
Broadnax's shooting percentage is lower (47.7) than Jackson's but he can still make the jumpers, as evidenced by his 17 points on five-for-six shooting against Boston College earlier this season.
In fact, the best thing about Jackson and Broadnax may be their versatility. Both handle the ball well enough to play point guard, and both shoot well from the wing. And as Thompson said yesterday, "Guards set the tone for the team, and they've seen so many styles of offense. They've played with exceptional big men, they've played with a team that was slower, they had to change in midseason last year when we went to a faster pace."
Both said after Georgetown's NCAA championship in 1984 that the only thing better than winning a title would be to win a second. "Now," Broadnax said, "we've got another chance, and that's all we can ask for."