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

Hoyas Heat Up Local Summer League Games

It took just a handful of summer league games to convince Thomas Wong (COL ’82) that the 1984 Hoyas had a good chance to win a national title.

The Jabbo Kenner summer basketball league had recently moved to Georgetown’s newly air-conditioned McDonough Gymnasium and pitted the area’s top college basketball players head-to-head.

Teamed together that sultry summer were rising-junior Patrick Ewing (COL ’85), one of the nation’s most celebrated talents, and a relatively-unknown freshman named Michael Graham. Graham had been recruited to play on the Hilltop, and unlike classmate Reggie Williams, was not yet a household name. At 6-foot-9, Graham was a true power forward, something the Hoyas had not featured since Craig Shelton graduated from the college in 1980.

Roaming the paint in tandem, Ewing and Graham were a revelation. Ewing’s play that summer, which multiple observers described as simply dominant, was just confirmation of what everyone already knew. But Graham, every bit as dominant as the 7-foot center Ewing, was the one who opened eyes.

“Graham was obviously a very raw talent,” said Wong, recently, now the assistant vice president of the Hoya Hoop Club, “He dominated many other starting power forwards in the Kenner League, including the star players from the University of aryland. He really dominated them.”

Graham and Ewing were so effective together that Wong felt that they could finally lead the Hoyas to Final Four glory.

“Adding Reggie Williams and Michael Graham clearly in my mind made us one of the favorites to win the national championship,” Wong said. “I really felt that if we played up to our potential nobody would be able to beat us.”

As it turned out, Wong was on the money. Georgetown lost just three times all year en route to a national title. Ewing averaged 16 points and 10 boards, and Graham, though his statistics were modest, turned in a tour-de-force performance as the bruiser, providing the Hoyas with some much-needed toughness.

Georgetown’s triumphant season wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone around the country, but to Wong, who had witnessed the greatest Hoyas squad of all time in its early stages, it was almost expected.

Just Like Old Times

Fast forward 24 years, the same Jabbo Kenner Summer League is still being played in the same McDonough Gymnasium, and Georgetown finds itself in a similar position – looking to make the jump from Final Four participant to champion. And, much like in 1983, the freshman stole the show.

This year’s iteration of the league afforded Hoya fans with their first glimpse of incoming all-American guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright. Wright, whose close-cropped buzz cut, performance sleeve, and jersey No. 3 give him an eerily similar resemblance to Allen Iverson circa 1996, showcased his scary quickness and ability to drive to the basket at will. He even hit two game winning shots. Freeman, on the other hand, is taller (around 6-foot-4) and much thicker, and a model of efficiency. Freeman didn’t shoot the ball as often as Wright, but made the most of the shots he did take, connecting on 78.2 percent of his two-pointers, 32.1 percent of his threes, and 78.1 percent of his free throws.

Wright was teamed with senior Jonathon Wallace, who took the young guard under his wing, on The Tombs, while Freeman took the court for Clyde’s along with Patrick Ewing Jr., whose high-flying antics made him one of the league’s most exciting players.

Neither The Tombs nor Clyde’s won the league title, but both offered fans a glimpse of what could be in store for the 2007 season.

Winning the league title was an honor reserved for a more veteran team. The Myers and Alterman-sponsored team started the season slowly with rising senior guard/forward Tyler Crawford the only Hoya on the squad. Crawford was steady but unspectacular, apparently focusing mostly on improving his three-point shooting.

On July 22, though, M and A, as the team is commonly referred to, received the spark it needed. Fresh off of his first taste of professional basketball, Jeff Green returned to the Hilltop and joined his best friend for some Kenner League fun. Green’s first game was one of the best of the season, with Ewing and Freeman’s Clyde’s squad (Ewing was sidelined for unknown reasons) beating Crawford and Green’s team by a single point. Green chose to be more of a distributor than a scorer, but it was quickly evident that Myers and Alterman would be much improved.

In the playoffs, Clyde’s and Tombs were both knocked out in the first round, and led by Green, Crawford, and George Mason grad Tony Skinn, M and A won three close games to take the title.

Indeed, Hoyas were not the only ones to take the floor. Joining Ewing and Freeman on Clyde’s was one-time Hoya and current NBDL player Harvey Thomas and Virginia Tech rising-senior Deron Washington. Much like Ewing, Thomas and Washington (check YouTube for a video of Washington jumping clear over Greg Paulus) thrilled the crowds with thunderous dunks and acrobatic blocked shots. Other notables joining the league included: Folarin Campbell (George ason), Sean Singletary (UVa.), James Lang (Washington Wizards), ike Hall (Wizards), Rob Diggs (GWU), Ashanti Cook (COL `06), Arinze Onuaku (Syracuse), Jerome Dyson (Connecticut.), Byron Mouton (Maryland ’02) Bambale Osby (Maryland), and James Gist (Maryland).

Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert (Pan-Am games) and DaJuan Summers (nagging injuries) both sat out the summer league.

The Kenner Experience

For John Hawkes (SFS ’04), one of the most ardent Georgetown fans around, it only took a 10-minute drive to get his off-season Hoya fix.

Most sports fans are left only highlight videos and their own memories to make it through the offseason, but for Hawkes and his fellow District-dwelling Georgetown devotees, the Nike Jabbo Kenner Summer League was just what the doctor ordered.

Hawkes made the drive each Saturday and Sunday, and for several weeknight games, and took his familiar perch at the top of the bleachers, where he performed a task that not even the league organizers chose to undertake.

Hawkes kept statistics. Extremely detailed ones. Armed with a legal pad and a pencil, he* painstakingly recorded each shot, missed or made, rebound, assist, turnover, and blocked shot by Georgetown players. Fans would often walk up to Hawkes during games to find out how many points each player had scored. After each day of games, Hawkes posted an eloquently-penned recap and statistics in the HoyaSaxa talk boards.

“Keeping the stats is hard sometimes, especially if it’s a game like Tombs vs. Clydes and there are eight GU players on the court at once,” Hawkes said. “If that happens one of the guys sitting with me will help me out and tell who scored in case I miss it.”

Hawkes has been attending Kenner League games for three summers now, and has witnessed the crowds steadily grow. Hawkes attributes the boost in attendance to an increased focus on basketball recruiting and to the Hoyas’ marked resurgence.

“In a lot of cases [fans] know all about the incoming players before they set foot on campus and want to see what the hype is all about,” Hawkes said. “Also, as the Hoyas keep improving each year, fans start following the team year-round. The Kenner League is the only fix between the Final Four and idnight Madness.”

To picture the crowd, think Barry Farms meets Yates Gymnasium. Large enough to fill about two thirds of the stands on one side of cDonough, the crowd was about evenly split between players’ family members and friends from the D.C. area and fans of the teams, mostly Georgetown, whose players took part in the league.

One such fan was Paul Besozzi (SFS ’69, LAW ’72). Bessozi frequented the Kenner League both to catch up with old friends and to check out the latest crop of incoming freshmen. It also gave him an excuse to visit The Tombs. Besozzi watched the action closely, even going so far as to turn off his Blackberry.

Michael Karam (SFS ’72, LAW ’76, MLAW ’82), another Georgetown aficionado who often headed out to the Kenner League games, enjoyed the pick-up style of play.

“Whenever I watch the Kenner League,” he said, “part of me feels that the games should be played outside on the black top and that teams should runs shirts and skins, with whoever wins continuing to play and the losers going to the back of the line.”

Perhaps, though, the most salient observation comes from Wong, who is once again expecting big things from the Hoyas. If his intuition proves right this year, as it did in 1983, Georgetown could find itself cutting down the nets in San Antonio come April 2008.

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