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

A Tale of Two Hoyas

When you’re 10 years old, it’s hard enough to imagine that you’ll ever be 21, never mind think about what you’ll be doing and who you’ll stay friends with.

Making the traveling basketball team and meeting that kid with the funny name is hard enough. You’ve got all the time in the world; why waste it dreaming about all that stuff to come?

Senior year of college is hard enough as you rush to do everything you were supposed to and then plan the next step in your life. The future you thought would never arrive is now on your doorstep: Hurry up and make it count.

When Brandon Bowman and Ashanti Cook step on the basketball court this season, you’ve got to sense the urgency. The AAU league is a distant memory. So is the high school state championship. The letters of intent, the move cross-country, the coaching changes – that’s all in the past. You’ve only got one season left, and everybody’s looking up to you.

Maybe it’s overwhelming, but at least you’re not alone.

It all starts with fifth grade and the traveling team in Los Angeles. If “Brandon and Ashanti” now has a familiar ring to so many Georgetown fans, it was strange at first to Bowman.

“I was like, `What?’ I didn’t believe that was his name at first. I had never heard it before,” he says.

The issue of exotic nomenclature was quickly overcome and the two became fast friends. Even as they got older and started going to different schools, they stuck together.

“It’s not like we ever stopped talking or playing,” Bowman says. “We still hung out on the weekends.”

“It just made everything a lot more fun,” Cook adds.

Any separation was temporary, as the two eventually ended up at the same high school, Westchester, which boasted one of the best high school basketball programs in California. The school has won three state championships in the past four years, and its last four starting point guards, including Cook, have gone to Division I programs.

Behind the tag team of Bowman and Cook, Westchester took the state title in 2002 and reached the top spot in USA Today’s vaunted national high school basketball rankings. It was the culmination of an already extended friendship, and it looked like the final hurrah for the double act.

“You’re always around each other since day one playing basketball, so I think when we won that state championship 12th grade, it was kind of icing on the cake,” Bowman says.

Victory helped attract college recruiters, and Georgetown had its eye out for Cook. While the point guard started looking elsewhere, the Hoyas began courting Bowman. Although Cook signed a letter of intent at New Mexico, Bowman decided to throw his lot in with Georgetown.

“I thought the recruiting fell off because he had committed to a different school,” Bowman said of Georgetown and Cook. “Then I played in the Nike game the summer going into our senior year, and that’s when Georgetown started recruiting me, and I liked everything about it.”

A trip to see Midnight Madness helped make up Bowman’s mind, and the two seemed ready to part ways. But fate seemingly brought them back together when New Mexico’s head coach left, releasing Cook from his obligation to play for the Lobos. Cook took another look at Georgetown and decided to play for the Hoyas.

After switching coasts, the two learned to depend on each other to get through the awkwardness and changes of freshman year. Adapting to college life can challenge almost any new Hoya, but the pressure is all the more intense when you’re a member of Georgetown’s most celebrated extracurricular group.

“Having somebody to talk to that I was familiar with made the situation very easy. You go into practice, and we already know each other. That made things a lot easier on the basketball court, and socially,” Cook says. “We could basically pick each other up.

If he had a bad day, I’d come pick his head up, and he’d do the same for me.”

The pair survived the usual travails of moving to the next level in basketball, such as injuries and limited playing time, and the even tougher challenge of a sudden coaching change. The learning curve, along with the additional drama in the basketball program, has instilled greater maturity in the players who used to dance and shout in high school when they made shots.

“As far as basketball, I think we’ve matured more as players. You’ve got to learn how to stick through things on your own,” Bowman says. “Luckily I had him here, so I had someone from back home who came from where I came from and could understand me better than anyone else.”

By this point the pair has become a fixture for the Hoyas, starting in all 32 games last season. Bowman, a 6-foot-7 forward, has averaged over 15 points for the past two years. Cook, a point guard listed at 6-foot-2, finished third in scoring for the team last year (10.8 points per game) and second in assists (80). Throughout their progress, Bowman and Cook’s closeness helps spur each other on, offering criticism and motivation from a perspective that a coach could not offer.

“They’ve been teammates for most of their lives. What’s unique about that though is they don’t mind, for lack of a better term, getting on each other. They know what buttons that the other one needs to push to be more productive, to kind of get going,” says John Thompson, III, the men’s basketball coach.

On a team full of freshmen and sophomores, Bowman and Cook have emerged as the torchbearers for an evolving Hoya basketball tradition. Having stuck around for four years, however, doesn’t mean that the team sees the two as elderly.

“The way our personalities are, always happy and joking around and stuff like that, I don’t think they look at us like `old men’ socially,” Cook said.

Although the players may keep an easygoing attitude, Thompson commented on their deepening intensity as the clock winds down. After three years of close calls and disappointments, the desire to win and to help restore the Hoyas’ legacy has come into sharper focus.

“There’s no doubt. It happens with every team every year that all of a sudden you are a senior and you realize the number of games you have to play here is finite,” Thompson says. “I think you can clearly see that in their progression to senior year, in just everything. They seem to be slightly more focused.”

For all the closeness and familiarity half a lifetime and friendship bring, Cook and Bowman have also learned to grow apart over the past four years and pursue their own separate interests. They started living with different roommates and have given each other more space.

“We’re the same to a certain extent, but once you get past that, we’re totally different,” Bowman says. “He may like doing things that I don’t like doing, or being playful when I want to be serious – he’s good with that one.”

Familiarity has not, however, bred too much contempt. Although they may not be inseparable in their social lives, that bond of sharing the same roots, the same formative experiences, still keeps them together.

“That’s my man,” Bowman says, pointing to Cook and laughing. “I can’t see myself not ever talking to him, being friends with him, whatever. He’s going to be in my wedding when I get married.”

“Same here,” Ashanti replies. “We’ll always be in contact.”

A long way from Southern California and a long time after fifth grade, the entity known as Brandon and Ashanti is facing its last season with the sport that forged the friendship. The name Ashanti isn’t so strange anymore, and neither are the rhythms of college life or the motions of Thompson’s Princeton offense. And what remains is a carefree camaraderie, two people who have learned to complement each other in almost any aspect of their lives.

Just ask them about their favorite color.

“Blue,” Bowman says.

“Mine is gray,” Cook says.

“I thought it was red,” Bowman retorts.

“Naw, it’s gray,” Cook says, but then adds, “but I like red.”

“I hate red,” Bowman says.

Well, maybe not every aspect.

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