Thursday, April 9, 2015

GW basketball, Pato featured in new Comcast Xfinity commercial

This is pretty awesome: Columbia Heights Colonial on GWHoops spotted a new Comcast commercial featuring GW versus George Mason at the Smith Center. The commercial shows people watching "the big game" until rain starts and knocks the picture out.

It shows a Mason alley-oop but shows Patricio Garino dunking at the end. Pretty awesome. I wonder if Comcast or the ad agency has a GW alum on staff -- in which case, kudos to you.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Season Recap: A lot of highs and lows

The Colonials had some good times this season and some not good times. The good guys earned a postseason win for the first time since 2006, but it wasn't in the NCAA tournament. There's a lot of hope for next year, but also some disappointment for what could have been. Here's my season recap.

The first part of the season was definitely one of the best in years -- the team started with a 16-4 record, including wins over power conference teams like Rutgers, Depaul, Colorado and of course, Wichita State, which was ranked #11 at the time.

That Wichita State game was the team's biggest win in years, and came at the end of a run to take the Diamond Head Classic. It got GW onto the bubble and the good guys started earning votes in the NCAA poll.

In time, unfortunately, most of those power conference wins looked less impressive, as the non-Wichita teams finished with a combined 38-70 record. And there were some missed opportunities: the team lost a winnable game against Seton Hall plus others to #9 Virginia and Penn State.

And then things started to fall apart: the Colonials went on another mid-season swoon, losing 6 of 7 starting with #14 VCU and including a loss to a bad Duquesne team. They rebounded a bit, finishing the regular season winning three of their last four, then won one in the conference tournament before falling to Rhode Island.

The team received a bid in the NIT, and collected GW's that postseason win over #4 seed Pitt in Pittsburgh. The season ended with a loss in Philly to old conference foe Temple, a #1 seed. The Colonials finished with a 22-13 record.

Some folks were disappointed in that result, expecting a huge season with the Core Four of Patricio Garino, Joe McDonald, Kethan Savage and Kevin Larsen all back as juniors from a team that made the NCAA tournament. I was gutted during the swoon -- during the great early season run I asked off work to travel to the NCAA tourney -- but then again, GW lost two of the best players of the last decade, if not longer: big man Isaiah Armwood and clutch guard Maurice Creek.

My snowman ⛄️With that, they also seemingly lost some leadership. The Core Four played pretty well, but nobody took charge or fired up the team when things weren't going well, which Zeek and Creek always seemed to do. It's hard to tell from the stands, of course.

And while the team missed those two, they also gained two very promising players: freshmen Yuta Watanabe and Paul Jorgensen. Yuta, the 6' 8" Japanese forward, was immediately a revelation, hitting a lot of shots off the bench and immediately contributing. He finished with 7.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, and his minutes steadily went up. He also got a lot of press for GW -- my buddies and I invented a drinking game, where any time a commentator or analyst said Yuta was the fourth Japanese player to play in Division I, take a drink. And we took a drink every time a game was on. The New York Times and Washingtonian also published articles about Yuta -- pretty awesome.

And aside from Yuta's press, the good guys were on TV a lot -- 23 games were on TV, and Yuta earned a SportsCenter Top 10 for a dunk against Richmond. There seemed like a lot more fan support too -- good crowds at home and away, especially for the New York-area games, where GW fans outnumbered those at Fordham. And the Smith Center started selling beer.

The other freshman who contributed, Jorgensen, had earned the nickname "Prince Harry of Harlem" from his streetball play in New York. The Prince took a while to catch on, but became a solid contributor with a lot of flash as the season went on, with games of 13, 12 and 11 points. I'm looking forward to seeing more out of both of them next season.

The Core Four almost all finished in double digits in points too: Garino led the team with 12.4, Savage at 11.7, Larsen at 10.9 (along with 7.4 boards) and McDonald at 9.9 points and 5.8 boards, good for second on the team.

John Kopriva, the lone senior, also played well, knocking down big shots, playing defense and drawing charges. He served as a solid role player off the bench while collecting a 4.0 GPA in pre-med, getting named a third-team academic All-American. Not too shabby, #DrJohn.

After the season, the team lost a couple of players as freshman Darian Bryant and sophomore Nick Griffin transferred. We didn't see either player too much during the season, but Bryant was an aggressive driver and Griffin a good shooter, scoring 12 against Davidson. Too bad to see them go, but I wish them the best.

Another season in Foggy Bottom: good times, bad times, excitement and disappointment. I wouldn't have it any other way. And with the Core Four back again with a seasoned Watanabe and Jorgensen, I'm looking forward to more excitement. And more Smith Center beer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Nick Griffin, Darian Bryant to transfer

It's always too bad when this kind of news comes up, but it's also not rare: freshman Darian Bryant and sophomore Nick Griffin are transferring, according to articles in the Hatchet.

Griffin was a pure shooter who didn't see a ton of time, but also had a 12-point game earlier in the year. He averaged 2.6 points in 7.9 minutes a game, shooting 24/66 (.364) from three and only .326 from the floor overall. He had a great shooting stroke, but as some mentioned on, he didn't seem to be able to get his own shot and I didn't get a good sense of any other facet of his game. That said, I liked watching him and wish him the best.

Darian Bryant was a tough, big guard who played aggressively, but also didn't see much time. He averaged 1.2 points in 5.4 minutes per game. I liked his high energy play but he would sometimes be a bit out of control -- that said, I definitely hoped to see more of him.

That means all of Coach Lonergan's 2013-14 class has left, as Miguel Cartagena and Skyler White have already transfered. Then again, as the Hatchet noted, the team was able to add Maurice Creek instead, so that worked out well.

That means the team now has two open scholarships, so I look forward to seeing if they sign new freshmen, snag some transfers, or hold onto them (I hope not the latter.) The team is alerady adding transfer Tyler Cavanaugh from Wake, who can play this coming season, and freshmen Jordan Roland and Collin Goss.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

No sleep till Brooklyn: a look at GW's A-10 tourney

The Colonials crushed UMass and have rolled into the Atlantic 10 tournament on a positive note: winning three of their last four. The good guys finished the regular season at 20-11 and 10-8 in the A-10, good enough for the #6 seed in the conference tourney. The team would have to win 4 to make the NCAA tourney -- not impossible, but certainly not easy.

The first game is against the winner of the 11 and 14 seeds on Thursday at 9 pm -- that's either Duquesne or St. Louis, respectively. That game to decide the matchup is Wednesday at 9 on the A-10 Network/SNY.

A pretty solid draw, considering the swoon for most of the conference season, although those potential matchups are not as good as you might think: GW beat SLU by only 3 in the one game they had early in conference play and split the season series with the Dukes, losing the second game by 14 in Pittsburgh.

If the good guys triumph Thursday, they'd face Rhode Island on Friday, also at 9 pm -- the Colonials lost a close one at Rhode Island earlier in the season due largely to 21 turnovers and poor free throw shooting.

I don't want to look to far ahead, but after that, it's the winner of #2 seed Dayton and St. Bonaventure or St. Joe's, and then the conference title. Here's the full bracket article.

So, do the good guys have a shot? It's difficult, of course, but like someone said on (I can't find the link now) GW has surged to a surprise conference tourney title before -- and they were certainly hot enough during that UMass game. If the team can play their solid defense from the first part of the season, can knock down open shots and free throws, and can get some good production out of the bench, things will look up. And in the last two games, the team has had 55 points off the bench. Of course, George Mason is not a good team, but the much better game statistically was against a tougher UMass squad -- aside from bench play, the team looked much more focused, crisper on offense and all-around solid.

We'll see. I plan to go up Friday, fingers crossed, and am feeling a lot better about things than a few days ago.

There's some other good news too: Kangy the Kangaroo is back from Parts Unknown. Kangy, you may recall, was the good luck charm from the great 2006-2007 season where GW went 26-3 and was 16-0 in A-10 play. Last year, he showed up again and gave some bar recommendations near the Barclay's Center. (Here's more about Kangy.) I consider him GW's Quetzalcoatl, appearing from the mists when we need him most.

And if you're going to Brooklyn, let me know. Let's hang.

Monday, March 9, 2015

GW (the mascot) in awesome ESPN SportsCenter ad

This is pretty great. The mascot (no longer Little George, right?) is in a ESPN ad featuring friend of GW Scott Van Pelt, plus other mascots. Good stuff.

If you recall, Van Pelt used to always mention GW and Pops Mensah-Bonsu on SportsCenter during the team's great run in 2006, sat in the student section at a game at the Smith Center, and even wore a yellow tricorner hat on ESPN (to toot my own horn, that was my suggestion, though they might have come up with it at the same time.) Here's him at the Smith Center:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I made a GW snowman

What did you do on your day off? (or, telework day in some cases.)

Amazingly, I teleworked, but made this fellow after I was finished. Not the greatest snowman, but the snow wasn't quite wet enough to make into big rolls. I used an old school Regis Koundjia jersey and some other paraphernalia.

Maybe it was the happiness from the win over George Mason in the Revolutionary Rivalry (nee Battle of the Orange Line) that inspired me.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The season's not over yet: why you should keep watching

Not since DJ's Fastbreak closed has there been this much disappointment at 22nd and H Streets. DJ's, pictured above in 2007, served awesome and cheap Korean bibimbap, rice bowls, pancakes and "bagel" to many a hungover or all-nighter-pulling student (e.g., myself.)
They occupied the building catty-corner from the Smith Center, and then one day they were no more, and an atmosphere of sadness descended on the corner, flushing away the aroma of grease.

And much like that, a promising season has descended into ennui. The good guys beat then #11 Wichita State plus a passel of big-conference teams with killer defense and tough offense, then suffered the dreaded swoon and went on 2-7 slide, dropping from 16-4 to 18-11, groaning to 8-8 in conference play. Those early big conference wins looked rusty as the season went on, too, with many of them faltering badly.

Fans and netizens can't agree on why the team has slumped so much -- is it the coach? Tired players? A lack of confidence? The curse of Larry Lembo?

I dunno. But I'm still paying attention, though resigned to the fact that I probably won't need to take off those days in late March that I hoped to. I'm going to keep watching, and here's why (aside from the obvious that I am a GW fan and thus slightly brain damaged.)
  • Simple reason, but I like watching these guys. When they're on, they're fun -- KevLar's big post moves, Joe being tough as hell, and so on. I remain optimistic that fun will occur.

  • John Kopriva: the team's lone senior deserves a big sendoff for his last game on Saturday. He improved a great deal on the court this season and served as team captain, all while studying to be a doctor. No small feat.

  • What seed will GW get in the A-10 tourney? Who will they face? Perennial (almost) questions that make for some interesting theoretical banter.

  • Pauly Jorgensen and Yuta Watanabe: how will they be used going forward? More two, three or four guard sets?

  • The youngsters: will Anthony Swan get more playing time after his three against Bona? How about Nick Griffin with 12 points against Davidson? Will we see more of Cimino and McCoy?

  • Did you know that Patricio Garino is the team's leading scorer? When he chooses to, he drives better than Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, combined. (Yes, I apologize for the Fast and Furious joke.)

  • Will someone other than a little baby win the Pita Pit dance contest? Who knows!

  • George Mason kind of stinks, so the good guys have a shot there. 

  • The George Mason band is pretty awesome and their band director is famous for being super excited and wearing Bernie Mac suits. Bill Murray likes them. (Also they don't have a band member who lets loose a blood curdling scream all the goddamn time, which I appreciate.)

  • It's always fun to see exactly how the Tonic trivia question is rigged.

  • Along those lines, Brooklyn is pretty awesome. Just watch out for hipsters. (The crazy thing is that this video came out in 2007, before the word selfie was even invented -- I think.)

Friday, February 6, 2015

GW likes buzzer-beaters against Dayton

Today's game is a big one, and if other GW-Dayton games are a guide for today, it's going to be a close one. BM over at reminded me of three (!) buzzer-beaters GW has had against the Flyers from Ohio. To wit:

Carl Elliott's almost half-court buzzer beater in 2005:

Isaiah Armwood's monstrous putback in 2013:

And Wynton Witherspoon's three (remember him?) in 2008:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A call to arms: let's pack the Smith Center!

by Endrit Demi

A battle is brewing in Foggy Bottom.  A battle not fought in the name of greed, revenge, or jealousy, but rather for the hearts and minds of a very fickle breed: the George Washington University student.  Having been one myself, I know the type.  Excited about being in the nation’s capital, into all things global and political; adventurous, sometimes spoiled; seeking to help others and to better the world; and into sports too, if there’s time.

These are generalizations, but it’s hard not to generalize when describing a student body of 25,000 and a collection of global alumni 200,000 strong.

That’s not to say that GW students don’t have a sports-fan bone in their body. Those who were around to witness the Sweet Sixteen run in 1993 can attest to that, as can those lucky enough to see the King Whale Killer (Pops Mensah-Bonsu), Mike Hall and company bring GW to a #6 national ranking in 2006.  I was one of the latter and still vividly recall having one leg over the Smith Center railing on Senior Day in anticipation of a frenzied court rush, triggered by Carl Elliott’s last-second put-back to preserve an undefeated conference season. (See photo above.)

After that magical season ended, the GW men’s basketball program was not able to capitalize on its success and floundered for several years, culminating with the firing of Coach Karl Hobbs. 

Enter Mike Lonergan. A Maryland native, Coach Lonergan led Catholic University to the Division III title in 2001 and brought the University of Vermont to national prominence.  Then came the opportunity to come back home to rebuild the Colonials.  Not even halfway through his fourth year, he has already taken the team back to the NCAA tournament and has established a culture of winning and academic success.  He seems to have all the tools to make GW basketball a local favorite and a national staple: good players, good recruits, the right assistants on staff, an eager athletics department -- except for that fickle GW fanbase.

This is not an indictment of the GW community. That community is strong both locally and internationally, but when it comes to regular attendance at basketball games, we fall a little flat.  And our coaches are noticing. Here’s Coach Lonergan after the A-10 home opener:
It was disappointing. I told my assistant, "God, we are 11-3 playing the two-time defending [regular season] champs and there are a lot of empty seats." I know our students aren’t here, but we played St. Joe’s [over the weekend in Philadelphia], it was a sellout. I think we will sell out games now -- the Daytons, the VCUs -- but we’ve got to get people to come out every day.
I get it.  There are a lot of wild and wonderful diversions in Washington, DC.  I take advantage of them every day.  And it’s not like attendance at the Smith Center is anemic -- the last couple of weekends have seen a big uptick -- but we can do better.  We have in the past, and I think we will in the future.  Athletic Director Patrick Nero and Coach Lonergan are laying the groundwork required for sustained long-term success that I know will broaden the fanbase.  But why wait until that happens when we have exciting basketball to watch now? Have you seen this team?!

A Core Four of athletic juniors, Coach Lonergan’s first big recruiting class, who gel incredibly well and provide matchup nightmares for opposing teams. Game to game, you may be able to neutralize one or two, but you can’t contain them all.

Joe McDonald (JoeMac) is a consummate floor general, able to control the pace of the game and of his own play – feeding the action on a regular basis and jumping to action when the team needs a bailout.

(Macho Man) Kethan Savage lives up to his name on a daily basis.  HAVE YOU SEEN HIM DUNK?  Check out his resume here, here, and here.

Patricio Garino (Pato) is basketball’s Renaissance man: he can do it all.  He rebounds on both ends, is a pesky thief, a block party planner and a contortionist. Scientists are still working to classify some of his amazing layups.

Kevin Larsen (KevLar) has a somewhat misleading nickname.  While he is as tough as Kevlar, he is also as graceful as a ballet dancer.  He can overpower you down low, but also has quick hands, quick feet and great court vision – as you would have seen with his two recent behind-the-back passes in traffic.

Senior captain John Kopriva (#DrJohn) has made a huge leap in on-court execution this season -- perfectly timed to fill in the gaps left behind by the graduated Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood.  And he does this on the heels of fulfilling a pre-med degree while on the dean’s list.  What did you do today?

Yuta Watanabe, the 6’7” big man from Japan, has more tools than there are botched pronunciations of his name by sports anchors – though ESPN’s pronunciation as WIN-tanabe is coming true. Tall, quick and confident with his shot, he has matured into this team’s Sixth Man faster than anyone could have expected.  Keep an eye on this guy – he’s going to be really special.

And I haven’t even delved deeper into the likes of 3-point-specialist Nick Griffin, defensive hound dog Darian Bryant, assist-aficionado Paul “Prince Harry of Harlem” Jorgensen, and Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh who is sitting out this year but will be a stud next year, among others. 

You get the picture.  This team is good. Very Good.  (And I know I’m saying this in the midst of a two game skid, but it makes my point even more important in light of our crucial home game against Dayton this Friday at 7pm!)

So here is my plea: come to the games.  If you already do, come to more of them.  Invite your friends, family, coworkers, wacky neighbors, sorority, fraternity, Secret Santa, the guy who runs the kabob food truck, and maybe your dog too. Ok, not the dog, but definitely all those other people.  Even if they aren’t hoops fans, the game is a lot of fun (and they sell beer now.) If they are basketball fans, even better: Lonergan’s 1-3-1 defense and a Japanese forward are not something you see every day.

Building a community is a team effort, the responsibility of which stretches beyond the basketball team itself.  They support our community by giving us something to be proud of and to rally behind.  We can give back by showing up and being loud and being amazed. 

And the same goes for the women’s team, who just entered the top 25 poll after 17 straight wins. 
When the Smith Center is packed, it’s not an experience you’ll ever forget.  Who knows?  Maybe one day you’ll make your own “one leg across the railing in anticipation of a buzzer beater court rush” memory.

You can get college basketball tickets here.