Jack Granger ran to an open spot in the corner in front of the George Washington bench as Colonials guard Adam Mitola dribbled across half-court late in the second half of Wednesday’s game against Richmond. If you get the ball, shoot it, teammates told Granger, GW’s 5-foot-7 team manager-turned-walk-on, who had yet to crack the scoring column in five other appearances this season.
Mitola swung the ball to Justin Williams, who passed it to Granger. The senior didn’t hesitate to follow orders from the bench as Richmond’s 6-foot-10 Paul Friendshuh came flying toward him.
“I kind of just let it go, and as I was falling down, watched it go in,” Granger said of his first career points, a three-pointer that put the Colonials over the century mark for the first time in four years in an eventual 103-77 win. “Everyone went crazy. I was just thinking I gotta get back on defense. I was kind of in shock.”
When Granger’s three-pointer splashed through the net Wednesday, the Smith Center crowd went wild. The fans’ excitement inside the arena was surpassed only by the reaction from the players on the George Washington bench, who stood up as Granger released his shot and then waved towels and jumped up and down after helping to his feet the teammate who used to hand them cups of water and those same towels. Granger’s parents celebrated while watching from their home in Connecticut.
“The amount of support and encouragement that I’ve received from fans, coaches and people from home has been really cool to see,” Granger said.
A three-sport star at Coginchaug Regional High in Durham, Conn., Granger considered staying close to home to play football or baseball in college, but he decided to head to D.C. after he was accepted to George Washington. The fact that Granger’s older brother, Roby, was a manager for the men’s basketball team and that he essentially had a position in the same role waiting for him if he was interested didn’t hurt.
The Granger brothers both served as managers during Jack’s freshman year, which included a win over Wichita State in the Diamond Head Classic championship game in Honolulu. Granger’s sophomore year as manager culminated in an NIT championship. During a practice last season, George Washington Coach Maurice Joseph, who was the interim replacement for Mike Lonergan at the time, approached Granger with a question. If Joseph were promoted to full-time coach, would Granger be interested in giving up his manager duties to walk on to the team?
The answer was a resounding yes. A couple of weeks after George Washington removed the interim label from Joseph’s title last March, Granger reminded him of his proposal.
“He honored his part of the bargain and here we are,” said Granger, who made a free throw in George Washington’s first exhibition game this season but had missed his only previous shot attempt during the regular season. “I’m so thankful that Coach MoJo kind of took a chance on me and let me live this dream out.”
A manager’s on-court duties during practice are typically limited to rebounding and passing, but Joseph knew that Granger could play from their time as teammates. During Granger’s sophomore year, he recruited Joseph, then an assistant on Lonergan’s staff, to join his intramural team. They won a championship together.
After Wednesday’s win, the Colonials’ third straight, Joseph shared a moment with his former intramural teammate.
“He gave me a big hug and had a tear in his eye, got a little emotional because he was just so happy,” Granger said. “That really meant a lot to me.”
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