The last image Greg Monroe left as a Georgetown basketball player was not a thunderous dunk, a silky-smooth pass or his trademark gator clap after a big play. Weeks before the center will complete his sophomore year and head to the NBA, a teary-eyed Monroe delivered a heartfelt thank you to the Georgetown community and his teammates at the team’s annual banquet.

“It was the best two years of my life,” Monroe said. “The things we’ve been through, I wouldn’t have wanted to go through with anyone else but these guys.”

Head Coach John Thompson III asked Monroe to address the audience, an honor usually reserved for outgoing seniors, and the gracious center choked back tears as he said he would be brothers with his teammates for life.

“We are Georgetown,” Thompson said after Monroe’s moving speech. Thompson added that Monroe promised his coach and his mother that he would continue to work toward his degree while playing professional basketball.

The Leavey Center Ballroom was full of warm feelings and congratulations as the Hoyas celebrated their 2009-2010 season with boosters, family, staff and students on Tuesday night.

University President John J. DeGioia and Hoya Hoop Club President Alfred Bozzo (GSB ’85) were among the speakers. They thanked the “Hoya Nation” that traveled across the country to support the team and that raised $2.2 million in donations, slightly less than the $2.4 million raised last fiscal year.

Thompson declined to award a team MVP, saying any one of the Big Three – Monroe and junior guards Chris Wright and Austin Freeman – would be deserving. Thompson did give two Coaches’ Awards to juniors Ryan Dougherty and Julian Vaughn.

Dougherty is a reserve guard who played in 10 games and was praised for his selfless commitment to the team. Joining Wright and Freeman as captains next year, Dougherty spoke about the life lessons he has learned through basketball.

Thompson praised Vaughn for overcoming personal adversity to have a breakout season. The forward started every game and averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

Accepting the award, Vaughn told a story about having a miserable day in summer practice. He said John Thompson Jr. came up to him after practice and told him the difference between players who improve and those who do not is that those who improve are willing to make fools out of themselves every once in a while. Vaughn said this advice has stuck with him as he worked to try new things and improve all aspects of his game.

The evening had a light-hearted tone, as Coach Thompson III and Director of Basketball Operations Matt Henry joked about the players and team. Thompson commented on freshman Hollis Thompson’s short attention span and Henry complimented sophomore Henry Sims for looking dapper in his suit and orange tie.

Even Bill Licamele (COL ’68, MED ’72), winner of the Fernicola Award for lifetime dedication and support of the program, was a target. Licamele, who sends e-mails to other Hoya fans and posts on the message board HoyaTalk under the name LicHoya, took jokes about his questionable spelling and grammar in stride as he accepted the award.

Discussing the Hoyas’ future, Thompson offered a joking analogy that he prefaced with an apology to the Jesuits. Referring to the story of Easter, the coach said he would raise center Henry Sims from the dead in his third year. Sims came to Georgetown as a highly touted recruit but has failed to live up to expectations yet, averaging less than two points and rebounds per game in his freshman and sophomore seasons. With the Hoyas’ All-American center leaving, Sims projects to see more playing time.

Thompson also said the team’s backcourt next year would be among the nation’s best, and that while the Hoyas would be different, they still expect success.

Thompson ended his address with, “Losing is not an option.”

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