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

Sapp Flourishes in Starring Role

That’s practically like asking a college basketball player, ‘What’s your name?’Most players can rattle off their high school team ” as well as teammates, statistics and awards ” without batting an eye, having listed off the same information for dozens of recruiters, reporters and coaches over the years.

Jessie Sapp, though, stumbles over the question. His answer always catches people by surprise.

‘I didn’t play high school basketball,’he says, reiterating, ‘No, not at all,’in response to the shocked looks on the faces of the reporters surrounding him.

‘I started getting into basketball, playing street ball, like ’03,’he explains. ‘I played before then, in little tournaments, but it wasn’t really serious.’/p>

Strange, but true. The starting guard for one of the best teams in college basketball, now a sophomore, has just four years’ worth of experience on the court.

Unlike his teammates ” and most of the players in tomorrow’s Final Four ” Sapp grew up with boxing gloves on his hands rather than a basketball in them.

‘I was a boxer first, and then I started getting into basketball,’he says.

Growing up in the Woodrow Wilson projects in Harlem, Sapp could have played hoops, but instead found solace in hitting the bags in the Boys Club of New York. With his raw abilities and quickness, Sapp was soon winning fights, going 21-0 in his short career as a boxer.

But even with his success in the ring, it wasn’t until Sapp found basketball that he discovered his calling.

‘All that fighting stuff is over with ” it’s in my past,’Sapp says. ‘I appreciate it, but I’m a basketball player now.’/p>

Sapp says that he is done fighting, but the toughness he learned in the projects and in the ring has stuck with the 6-foot-3 guard throughout his collegiate career. Just ask Jared Dudley.

‘I just want to play basketball, but I’m not the type to back down from nobody,’Sapp says of going toe-to-toe with the loud-mouthed forward from Boston College during the Hoyas’ second round victory. ‘I won’t bother nobody, but you’re not going to try to punk us either. I’m just not the type to back down from anybody.’/p>

Sapp’s backcourt mate, junior Jonathan Wallace, attributes the altercation with Dudley to Sapp’s stubbornness and intensity, while his roommate Tay Spann says it is because ‘he’s got a lot of New York in him.’/p>

But for Sapp it is about something else. Family and loyalty.

Sapp is so protective of his teammates because he considers them his family, and family is something sacred to the New Yorker. Sapp has a tattoo on each wrist ” on his right, the word ‘family,’on his left, ‘loyalty.’/p>

‘That’s what I’m about,’Sapp says. ‘I’m about family and being loyal. I have it on my arms, ‘family’and ‘loyalty,’so that’s really what I’m about.

‘This is my family here, so if you have a problem with my family then you’re going to have a problem with me.’/p>

Sapp’s loyalty to his families ” the one in New York and the one on the court ” was torn last year during the NCAA tournament. The day before the Hoyas were to take on the Gators in last year’s Sweet 16, Sapp’s younger sister Stevevasha was shot, an innocent victim of a random shooting in a Harlem playground. Sapp wanted to fly home to be with his sister, but Stevevasha wanted him to stay with his team. Sapp did stay with the Hoyas, playing 16 minutes in Georgetown’s loss to the eventual national champions, but he has admitted his whole heart was not in it because he worried about his sister.

Stevevasha Perry eventually made a full recovery.

Despite the pain Harlem has caused for Sapp ” evidenced by the tattoo of a cross with R.I.P. on his right forearm as much as by his sister’s shooting ” he holds no grudge against the place he calls home.

‘I love it to death,’he says of the Woodrow Wilson projects. ‘It made me a better person. Those projects are good. They’re real good, actually. It’s just like every other project in Harlem ” you’ve just got to live through it. It makes me tougher. It makes me love the game more. That’s what brings the toughness out of me. That’s the best projects in the world, if you ask me.’/p>

Sapp has not been jaded by the suffering around him, earning a reputation as a jokester on the Hoyas and always having a smile on his face.

‘I like to make people smile,’he says. ‘I don’t want to see nobody sad. I don’t like sadness. So that’s just me. I’ll do whatever it takes to make you smile. I’m just about living life to its fullest.’/p>

Sapp is certainly living life to its fullest this weekend as the Hoyas prepare for their first Final Four in over two decades. Averaging just over 12 points per game and almost four assists per game in the tournament, Sapp had a career-high 20 points in Georgetown’s opening win over Belmont and is hitting his stride at just the right time.

And while he may have been a late comer to the hoops scene, Sapp is now as addicted to the sport as any of his more experienced teammates.

‘I have a passion for the game that I don’t know where it came from,’he says. ‘It’s just a passion. I love to play the game. I’m going to fight to the end ” win, lose or draw.’/p>

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