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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL | After Heartbreak, Haney’s Hoyas Make History 

After a historic 2023-24 season, Head Coach Darnell Haney and Georgetown women’s basketball look to build the program into a perennial powerhouse.
GUHoyas | Optimism is high for the Georgetown women’s basketball, as Head Coach Darnell Haney looks to recreate this past season’s success moving forward.

The offseason has been anything but relaxing for Georgetown University women’s basketball Head Coach Darnell Haney.

In just the past few days, Haney has hosted recruits on campus, helped with photoshoots and handled media responsibilities. Two weeks from now, McDonough Arena will come alive again with the thuds, squeaks and swishes of team practices before summer training rolls around.

Until then, Haney is taking everything in stride.

“I’m good, I’m good,” Haney told The Hoya. “I move, I wear a couple of different hats, but it’s been really good, man. I’m excited about the future of the program.”

Earned, Never Given

The head coach’s office is still relatively empty — Haney has just moved in after being designated the official leader of the program March 11, replacing the late Tasha Butts. A signed basketball sits in a display case just behind his desk, the record 8-1 inscribed across its surface in honor of the torrid stretch that powered the Hoyas’ deep postseason run.

Well before Georgetown’s (23-12, 9-9 Big East) first-ever Big East Tournament final appearance and dance in the inaugural Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament (WBIT), Haney saw the makings of a team determined to prove itself.

“Seeing our young women walk, talk and act like winners and champions, when they walked on the floor or walked into a huddle after a time out, I knew they know they can play and they know that Georgetown’s back,” Haney said.

The Hoyas won 9 of their first 10 games in nonconference action, the program’s best start to a season in the Big East era. However, after a 12-2 run through the first half of the season, Georgetown began to struggle with a 2-5 stretch in conference play. 

Still, the team managed to scrape together another 2-3 run before launching their hot streak toward the end of the season.

“That’s what this is about every season,” Haney said. “You’re gonna have some adverse times and you have to be ready to overcome those.”

Georgetown rebounded in major fashion, picking up three consecutive wins to close out the season before beating 11th-seeded Xavier (1-27, 0-18 Big East), third-seeded St. John’s (18-15, 11-7 Big East) and second-seeded Creighton (26-6, 15-3 Big East) to reach the Big East Tournament final, where they ultimately lost to Final Four team UConn (33-5, 18-0 Big East).

The performance was enough to earn Georgetown a six-seed in the WBIT, marking the team’s first postseason action since 2019. The Hoyas held off a late surge by second-seeded Washington (16-15, 6-12 Pac-12) behind senior guard Kelsey Ransom’s 28-point effort to move past the first round. 

Although Georgetown eventually fell to a sharpshooting Tulsa (25-10, 13-5 AAC) in the second round, the team had far surpassed earlier projections that placed the Hoyas second-to-last in the conference.

“We stayed the course and stayed true to who we were, and we did it the Georgetown way and we were able to overcome adversity,” Haney said.

Georgetown is a Brand

“Chick-fil-A sells chicken, Starbucks sells coffee, Georgetown plays defense.”

After first appearing in a press conference in February, the phrase took off like wildfire. Players, fans and Haney himself came to embrace the phrase, one of the many “Haneyisms” that emerged throughout the season — a testament to how the program has bought into a collective vision.

“I think the number one thing you have to do is you have to have an identity and you gotta go with that identity,” Haney said. “You gotta figure out who your players are as people, right? And then make sure that you’re pounding that identity every day.”

The pieces were already there: Ransom led the team on-court, graduate forward Graceann Bennett anchored the squad and junior forward Brianna Scott provided a sparkplug presence. Graduate guard Alex Cowan was the metronome, graduate forward Mya Bembry was the glue player and sophomore guard Victoria Rivera was the deep threat. Everyone had a role to play.

From there, the Hoyas rallied around a collective focus on defense. There was no secret formula aside from the fundamentals: knowing their assignments, watching the perimeter and dominating the paint. Occasionally the team would call a full-court press or switch to a 1-2-2 zone, but otherwise, it was the same old trick.

And it worked: Georgetown had the No. 9 scoring defense in the nation, and Ransom earned Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors for leading the unit. The Hoyas managed to cool off strong teams in the postseason to secure tough wins, even when the offense was inconsistent. In the process, the Hoyas developed their own brand of tough basketball.

Optimism is high on the Hilltop. Haney and his staff have had a full season to build the desired infrastructure, and the Georgetown community has also come to embrace this culture.

“From the pep band to our cheerleaders, to the Georgetown community, our students, to the DMV community, they’ve been very, very supportive and we appreciate them tremendously,” Haney said. “They were the sixth man in some games, especially in McDonough.”

Outside Dawgs Only

Two posters line the back of Haney’s office: one of five-time WNBA champion forward Rebekkah Brunson (CAS ’04) and one of all-time Hoya leading scorer and WNBA all-star guard Sugar Rodgers (COL ’13, GRD ’21).

Along with players on the current team, they are emblematic of what Haney wants to see from his recruits.

“You gotta be humble, you gotta be hungry, you gotta be smart,” Haney said.

Haney has a tough task of replacing the three graduates and four seniors on the current squad. Losing the leadership presence of Bennett, a two-time Big East Sportsmanship Award winner, will be tough, along with other key contributors.

“The short-term goal is to be in the NCAA tournament, so we gotta bring pieces in here in order to do that,” Haney said.

Georgetown got a major break with Ransom returning for her final year of eligibility and will look to be active in recruiting high school commits and transfers. So far, the Hoyas have one signee in guard/forward Jayden McBride, a top-100 recruit with the versatility and scoring talent to make an immediate impact. They are also in conversations to add more commits for next year.

Furthermore, Haney is working the transfer portal, aiming to add to the team’s high-end talent and veteran presence. Beyond a transfer that “might break the internet,” Haney hopes the new additions will help stabilize the team’s offensive production.

“We gotta shoot a better percentage from the perimeter, we gotta shoot a better percentage from three,” Haney said. “With your young people, you gotta make sure that they’re better than they were and that means that they’re gonna put everything they have into the summer.”

“But recruiting? We gotta get better players.”

To call Haney’s first season a success would be an understatement. 

In creating history, the Georgetown program sees the sky as its limit. All that remains for the Hoyas is the continual process of building up the talent and environment necessary to realize their grandest dreams.

“When we wake up in the morning and we come in these offices and we go and recruit, we’re going to recruit so that we can be a national power, not just a Big East power.”

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About the Contributor
Oliver Ni
Oliver Ni, Senior Sports Editor
Oliver Ni is a sophomore in the SFS from Bolingbrook, Ill., studying science, technology and international affairs with a minor in mathematics. He was a proud member of the seventh lowest-ranked high school baseball team in Illinois. [email protected]
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