In this special episode of “Halftime on the Hilltop,” Hoya sports reporters take on the big question of the fall: What will basketball season bring?
Listen in to hear about the latest recruits on both the men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as an exclusive interview with Hoya Blue President Rachel Cherelstein (COL ’22) about the student spirit expected at the games.
DP: Hey Hoyas, it’s your host Demi here, and you’re listening to a special edition of “Halftime on the Hilltop.” It’s November. College football is winding down to a close, and that means only one thing: Georgetown basketball is back. In anticipation of what is looking to be a thrilling season, we’re discussing all things Hoya basketball. We’re going to break down the Big East power rankings, we’re going to talk potential Big East expansion, the return of fans, and preview both men and women’s basketball. We’re also going to discuss the Georgetown basketball identity, which is iconic in the world of sports and pop culture. Really, if you haven’t read John Thompson’s “I Came as a Shadow” then you’re missing out on an extraordinary aspect of Georgetown’s history. This episode is serving as a companion piece to The Hoya’s print basketball issue, which came out this morning. So go get yourself a copy if you haven’t.
DP: The men’s basketball team starts their season this upcoming Saturday, which we are really excited for. But the women’s — we actually already started our season.
SS: Yeah so season opener at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md., against Navy, third straight win against Navy since 2006, they won 76-62 and shot 44% from deep.
TB: It’s huge, Milan Bolden-Morris in her second year with the Hoyas, a graduate student. Career-high 22 points on a career-high six made threes, only took eight of them. And Grace Anne Bennett also had a huge night, 18 points in only 19 minutes, so that could be big if she keeps that up in her sophomore year too.
CK: It feels good to avenge the men’s team’s upset loss to Navy a season ago, which really put a damper on the season. So now, take that, Navy. We’re better than you guys after all.
TB: Grace Anne Bennett’s definitely a junior by the way, that’s my fault.
CK: That’s embarrassing for you, Tim. Also, shoutout to Anita Kelava, who filled out the stat sheet with nine boards and three assists.
DP: I think that something is gonna be really exciting about women’s basketball is that they play right here on campus in McDonough Arena. So while there’s gonna be buses to Capital One Arena for the boys, the girls are going to be playing right here in McDonough. So they’re right here. You literally walk 10 steps. So I’ll be going to some of those. Tim actually wrote our men’s basketball preview.
TB: With Conor Geelan, not just me. Shoutout Conor.
DP: So Tim, what was the experience like of writing an article with someone else?
TB: Oh, it was interesting. I mean, a lot of it was like, similar to writing an article yourself. It’s not like we split it up, we did it together. It’s like, I’ll take this one paragraph and you’ll read it over 10 times and make your edits. It wasn’t that really difficult, we just had to be on the same page without outline, that was kind of the main thing. I think people are sleeping on the defending Big East champions, first of all. We ranked ninth in the power rankings by “ESPN experts.” Which I guess makes sense losing our four major scorers from last year — Pickett, Blair, Bile and Qudus Wahab, who transferred, unfortunately.
CK: Had a great game for Maryland yesterday.
TB: I mean, we still have a lot of talent on this roster and it all starts with Dante Harris, who is the reigning Big East tournament MVP, and Aminu Mohammed — those are going to be the two guys to watch, especially this season. And Don. Team captain Don. That’s Donald Carrey, by the way. But Dante Harris really took a step up in the postseason last year. He had seven double-figure scoring games the whole season; three of those came in the Big East tournament where it matters. So it would be great if he continued that momentum into this year and be a consistent scorer and facilitator for this offense; that’d be huge. But the guy who’s going to have to lead us in scoring is going to have to be Aminu. Aminu just has to be really good right out of the gate because we don’t have that much scoring coming back from last year. But the thing is, I could easily see him averaging 17, 18, 19, 20 points. Donald Carrey, as Caden mentioned, is going to be really important for this team. It’s a really young team. And he’s been around for a while now and he was named team captain — he’s going to have to be a role model for them. As Patring Ewing (CAS ’85) said, he said Carrey would be a great role model for the new guys and then named him captain right after when asked about Donald Carrey, so high praise from Coach Ewing there. Also, Timothy Ighoeffe is going to have a much bigger role losing Qudus last year. Him and Ryan Motombo are going to have to fill out those center minutes. I think Jordan Riley, as you mentioned, and Motombo are going to be huge down the stretch down the season. Like, how they develop this year is going to be really big for how good this team can be.
CK: Don’t sleep on Tyler Beard, too — I think he’ll get decent minutes off the bench.
TB: It’s a deep Big East. I mean, it’s Villanova and everyone else. And UConn, I guess if you want to make a second tier it’s probably just UConn. But besides that, it’s very wide open besides them. So if you have the freshmen come in and contribute right away, we could easily be one of — have a top seed in the tournament.
SS: Also Citadel is just the gift that keeps giving. They beat Pitt yesterday 78-63 after sending us Kaiden Rice. Also, what happened with Judah Mintz, like, what is —
CK: So he decommitted from Pittsburgh after watching them get absolutely spanked by the Citadel — he immediately decommitted. And Georgetown, apparently Coach Crouch has a relationship with his family and he’s a four-star DCE prospect, so, you know, I think he made the right choice and I hope to see him here next year. I sort of feel like it might be Michigan; I don’t know why but it just feels like these guys always go to Michigan. But, you know, I’m going to block those negative feelings out and spread positivity. Also, since the last time, D’ante Bass —
SS: Also committed. And Denver England also signed.
CK: It’s been a big few days. D’ante Bass, freak athleticism. Jumps out of the gym, if he can kind of refine his skillset a little and develop a shot, he’s a possibility.
DP: So another article to look out for in The Hoya’s basketball issue is “Who is Georgetown Basketball?” written by Caden and Austin Barish (COL ’23). Yeah, so credit to Austin. Austin gets the majority of the credit for writing this. We were writing this on Lau 2, grinding it out. And I was, it was a little too late for me to think functionally even though it wasn’t that late, and so he really gets most of the credit for this article. So shoutout Austin Barish. Follow him on Twitter @austinbarish.
TB: Shameless plug.
CK: All six of you.
TB: All seven.
CK: You know, Georgetown is really going to have to lean into this underdog personality that they’ve developed. When they bought into that and became this kind of scrappy, you know, defensive-minded team that we saw make a run in the tournament, a lot of that, that sort of underdog mentality.
DP: We’re excited to have our first guest on the podcast today — I Bleed Hoya Blue president Rachel Cherelstein (COL ’22). Rachel, welcome to “Halftime on the Hilltop.” This is quite a big moment for us, you are our first guest, our inaugural guest. We are all sophomores and so we have never really been to a Georgetown basketball game before. But Saar, I would say, is a Georgetown basketball nerd.
DP: Fanatic. Really excited for Saturday, for our first game.
TB: So basketball actually hasn’t been the first season of sports so far this year. So how has Hoya Blue been at the soccer games or any of the other fall sports this year?
RC: Yeah, so all of our fall sports so far have had record-breaking attendance, I’m pretty sure. Obviously our men’s and women’s soccer teams are always fantastic, and it’s been a lot of fun being out at their games. I don’t know if any of you have had the chance to attend a men’s or women’s soccer game, but for the men’s in particular we’re right behind the goal. It’s a lot of fun. We’re kind of nagging at the goalie. It’s a lot of fun. And we’ve had huge numbers for those games. I think our Maryland game on Sept. 11, I think that was the largest soccer game that I’ve been at at Georgetown. I think we had more people there than we did at the Elite 8 game in 2019. Women’s soccer too, they’ve also been great. They just won their Big East championship, so obviously doing fantastic. Football, who don’t historically have great attendance here at Georgetown, I think that after the pandemic I think that people are really excited to get back to doing things in person and supporting our sports teams. I think part of the difference in excitement is not just the pandemic but also we just have really successful teams right now. In 2019 men’s soccer won their championship and so I think coming back to campus, now that people can actually attend their games, people are really enjoying those. And I think there’s been a lot of excitement around the new recruiting class for men’s basketball, so I think that will also make it so that we’ll have a packed student section in Capital One, or at least that’s the hope.
TB: So I know you touched on it a little bit, but the recruitmenting class. But what are you most excited about for this upcoming basketball season?
RC: I think coming off of the Big East tournament win from this past year, being a part of Georgetown basketball is just going to be really special. I think we have a young team and there’s probably going to be some growing pains, if I’m being honest, but the fact that we won this past year still having Dante Harris as a leader of the team is going to be really fantastic.
SS: Of the men’s basketball team, have there been any notable games that you’ve been a part of where it’s been just electric?
RC: In terms of Capital One Arena as a whole, being in such a large arena is really something outstanding that we’re able to do. The fact that we’re not on campus is a little bit of a shame, but the fact that we’re at such a large arena and we have free transportation for students means that we get a lot of students out at those games. I think we definitely rattle some people, or at least I like to think so. I think a really special moment that I can think of was our game against Syracuse in the fall of 2019. George Muresan, who was a junior that year, one of our remaining upperclassmen, he played the last few minutes and the entire student section just started chanting “George, George, George.” It was honestly incredible. I remember he reposted our Instagram story afterwards and it was really hype just to give him that moment. I remember his dad was there and he was standing on his feet, cheering him on too. It was really exciting having that huge arena, everyone chanting someone’s name. I think it made a big impact.
SS: That actually made me curious. Are there any fan favorites on the roster this year that you think will have that same impact or that the fans will adopt in the same way?
RC: I’m not sure. I guess we’ll have to see. I think having such a young team, it’s difficult. I think Dante Harris is obviously going to be a huge favorite. Don Carrey, just the returners who made a big impact in the Big East last year. But I think Ryan Motombo has a big chance to be an impact player and also a fan favorite. A lot of the fan favorites are also the players who don’t get a lot of minutes, so, you know, maybe Victor will be a fan favorite continuing in George’s legacy. Chuma doesn’t get a lot of minutes, him too.
SS: I’m just curious. What’s your prediction for how men’s basketball does this year? Because I’ve seen a ton of variety. I’ve seen, like, we win the Big East and also we finish at the bottom of the Big East.
RC: You know, unfortunately our preseason prediction is that we’re going to be, what, second to last in the Big East this year. But I think they said that about us last year. They counted us out last year and we won the Big East last year, so I think it’s totally possible that happens again.
SS: So thanks so much for coming on and talking about Hoya Blue. This was just awesome. And it’s going to be a great season.
CK: Take a picture with the Big East trophy.
SS: That’s true, that will be there. That’s so exciting.
DP: And the three men I’m sitting with all participate in IM leagues — well, Caden doesn’t actually because he tore his ACL. So The Hoya Sports podcast group this past like two months has just been filled with trash talk.
CK: Saar initiates all of it and then he loses all the games.
TB: It’s really true.
SS: Making an absolutely sick pass against a team that had no Hoya people on it and then Tim just decides to say, “Oh, you guys are so cute, I hope to see you, one of you in the title game.” Who instigated that? Me or Tim?
TB: Me. Definitely me.
CK: The really funny thing is that neither of them made the playoffs.
TB: Well, okay.
SS: Why don’t you shut up, Caden.