Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

True to her Roots, Frosh Finds Home at GU

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Freshman forward Monica McNutt overcame a broken nose and concussion to crack the Hoyas’ starting lineup.

Past the “Academy of the Holy Cross” sign, down a curving road, in a big building, up a flight of stairs and through a narrow hallway is a tiny basketball court. The court is where Monica McNutt did some big things.

With students’ handmade “Go Tartans!” signs taped to the walls and spectators’ toes hanging onto the court in a gym so small that trips to the snack stand involve the back court, Coach Russell Davis sits quietly, in a purple shirt and tie, as his team struggles to rally back against a Bishop McNamara team that has already beat his squad once this year.

It’s Feb. 8, 2008, and Davis’s Tartans are one year removed from a WCAC and D.C. championship and look the part of a very young varsity team.

Forty-eight hours earlier and 10 miles south, Georgetown is looking at a 12-point deficit and a more experienced St. John’s side, coming off a year where they failed to make the Big East tournament and finished with just three league wins. McNutt, now with the Hoyas, watched her team’s comeback as Georgetown pulled off a rare late rally to win 61-60.

But McNutt played poorly. “We’re just going to forget about this game for Monica,” Head Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said afterward, “That wasn’t her tonight.”

The “her” Williams-Flournoy is talking about is the same `her’ that scored 21 points at Marquette on Jan. 30 and dropped 13 four days before, at then-No.13 West Virginia.

“I don’t care, at any level, she’s always been able to score,” Davis said of his former star. “She knows how to take good shots, get positioning on the floor. I think that’s what attracted the coaches to her. She’s always been very smart, a very smart player.”

From her arrival on the Hilltop, McNutt made an instant impact. Through preseason workouts and early October practices, McNutt was a favorite for the first team.

“What we expected of her was athleticism, the typical prototype lanky three guard,” Williams-Flournoy said.

But after a shot to the face resulted in a broken nose and concussion, McNutt’s path to playing time was off track before Midnight Madness. Without a chance to learn the offense or practice, McNutt began looking more like a high school senior than a college freshman.

“For freshmen, to have to sit out that long is very hard,” Williams-Flournoy said. “We continue along, continue to put plays in, continue to improve and she continues to get further and further behind.”

cNutt was coming off a championship season in which her team lost just five times and won when it counted most. The time off let her gain perspective on the improvements she would need to make to have success in the college game.

“For me, I had to hit a wall, get a little more humble,” McNutt says of needing to spend time being forced to watch. “But now, looking back, I think I’m a much better player and teammate for it.”

cNutt faced a similar setback at the beginning of her senior season, fracturing a bone in her foot and missing four games.

“She came back, and to her credit, she stayed in shape,” Russell said of McNutt’s injury. “She lifted weights, she was on the stationary bike. She was in the gym, sitting on the floor or in a chair, working on her shot.”

When she was not with the team or shooting from the floor, she was with her parents, Russell said. Her father would take her to gyms to work out when the team was not practicing. All that time spent with her parents rubbed off on the Tartan captain.

“There were four things that were very important in Monica’s life. One was family, one was church, one was her playing basketball and then being a friend to a lot of girls that she played basketball with,” Russell said. “From a very early age, there were a lot of girls that looked up to Monica. She hung around her father and mother a lot and she took on a lot of their personalities.”

Georgetown’s proximity to home and family played a large role into McNutt’s decision to stay in the Washington area. Providence, Pittsburgh and St. John’s were all part of the equation for McNutt but nothing could draw the Washington Post all-Met star from home. Not to mention the academic stature of Georgetown was too much to pass up to seriously consider going anywhere else in the Big East.

“I wanted to stay home. My family has always been a huge part of my success,” McNutt said, “They’ve always been there to support me so it didn’t make sense to leave now and stop letting them support me. Now it’s like, `Mom, can you make me a pizza and slip it up to me when you get a chance?'”

With six league games still on the schedule, all of them winnable, McNutt and Georgetown have a chance to make the Big East tournament. While it is unlikely Georgetown would make a deep tournament run, just making the trip to Connecticut would be a big step in bringing Georgetown back to the success the program saw in the early 1990s. Although McNutt was barely big enough to shoot a ball the last time Hoyas saw the Sweet 16 (1993), she has a sense of creating her own history now.

“We’ve got to get some W’s we’ve got to buckle down and do it,” McNutt said. “We want to make the Big East tournament. I’m excited about it and I think we’re going to do it. And I’m excited about doing it my freshman year and laying the foundation for the things that will come.”

With McNutt already in the swing of things and Georgetown’s nationally-ranked recruiting class on tap, McNutt will have more than that WCAC championship to look back on when her playing days are over.

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