Georgetown University’s plan for the spring semester has left thousands of students feeling isolated, alone and far removed, both physically and mentally, from the Hilltop community. Yet men’s basketball season offers a potential long-awaited return of Georgetown’s school spirit.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still ravaging the country. Cases and deaths are once again on the rise, preventing students from returning to campus. Everyone feels disconnected: First-year and transfer students have never lived on campus, a large portion of students have been living at home since March and even those students granted housing in dorms sense the eeriness of an empty campus.
Amid the disappointment, though, the men’s basketball team began its season Nov. 25 with a 70-62 victory over the UMBC Retrievers.Men’s basketball — the only athletic team currently competing for Georgetown — will play home games in an empty McDonough Arena, but the team should garner the support of thousands of students.
Led by Georgetown legend and Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85), the team can serve as the rallying point to bring students together after months of physical separation.
Admittedly, the team’s performance has been underwhelming in recent years. The Hoyas were knocked out in the first round of the most recent edition of the Big East Tournament, which was cut short due to COVID-19, extending their March Madness drought to five seasons.
Especially stinging for the program and its fans was the loss of several key starters — guards Mac McClung and James Akinjo transferred to Texas Tech and the University of Arizona, forward Josh LeBlanc transferred to LSU and center Omer Yurtseven chose to enter the NBA Draft, after which he signed a two-way deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder as an undrafted free agent.
After finishing eighth in the Big East last season with a 15-17 record, this year’s underclassmen-heavy team will gain valuable experience facing off against formidable conference foes including Villanova and Creighton, which are ranked 12th and ninth, respectively, in the AP’s Week 2 poll.
Georgetown should be excited for the return of the hooping Hoyas. Deprived of school spirit for the past eight months, students should be thrilled to finally cheer on their fellow classmates and hope for Hoya victory.
Though physically distanced, the Georgetown community should take advantage of innovative ways to stay involved in the fandom. Whether they purchase customized cardboard cutouts to fill the stands at McDonough, five of which will be autographed by Coach Ewing and sent to the winning students, or organize Zoom watch parties with classmates, there are many options for fans to simulate the vivacious Hoya student section from wherever they may be.
Fans should have enthusiasm, too, for promising freshmen players, headlined by ESPN top-100 recruit Jamari Sibley.
During this strange, fanless season, the pressure is largely off the players, creating an ideal environment for the six freshmen to showcase their talent and gain meaningful minutes. Senior guard Jahvon Blair and senior forward Jamorko Pickett, the only returning players to average more than 10 points per game last season, will look to hand the torch to the next generation of Hoyas.
Pay special attention to the trajectory of the freshmen. In a tough conference, this season will be a developmental year that could serve as a launchpad for improvement next season, when the Hoyas will have a more pronounced role alongside a star-studded Class of 2025.
Although Coach Ewing only has one winning season among his three seasons at the helm, this season will truly usher in the Ewing era. In his fourth season as head coach, this will be the first time he will lead a team composed entirely of players he recruited and is the best chance to implement his style of play.
Enjoy this moment, Georgetown.