Four players, four years – senior hoopsters say goodbye

Senior guard Andrei Krivonos stepped to the line for two free throws with :20.7 seconds left on the clock. His team trailed 67-65 in the GW men’s basketball game with St. Bonaventure at the Smith Center Saturday.

Krivonos stepped up and calmly hit the bottom of the net with both shots to tie the Senior Day game, which the Colonials won 71-67. He did exactly what GW head coach Mike Jarvis has learned to expect from his seniors over the years – he made Coach Jarvis proud.

“What he did at the end of the game is typical of what he has done his entire career,” Jarvis said. “He proves that there’s more to this game than scoring baskets. I have never appreciated a player more than Andrei Krivonos. He’s what makes coaching worthwhile.”

Like many of his teammates, a man of few words, Krivonos took the praise from Jarvis quietly, modestly.

Asked for a reaction to hitting the two free throws that allowed GW to take the game, Krivonos smiled.

“It felt great and we won,” he said.

The seniors on this year’s team, with the exception of center Alexander Koul, have been used sparingly during the season. Krivonos and guards Rasheed Hazzard and Darin Green have seen their minutes fluctuate – and often altogether disappear in the 1997-’98 campaign. But according to Jarvis, each has his role and an indispensable place on the team.

“Any time you play your last regular season home game, there is always a little bit of sadness,” Jarvis said Saturday. “You’re going to have players who are stars, and some who may have played a lot of minutes, and some who may not have played any minutes at all, but they all contributed in different ways.”

Krivonos is heralded as one of the best one-on-one defenders in the Atlantic 10 Division and often draws the assignment of guarding the best offensive player on the opposing team. He usually does not look for his own shot, but does a lot of the dirty work and hustling that can go unseen and unappreciated by the average fan.

Darin Green came into the season with high hopes. After a junior year dragged down by off-season surgery, he began his senior year in the Colonials’ starting lineup. But Green’s playing time dwindled.

Green, with his great jumping prowess, is one of the players on GW’s squad capable of electrifying the crowd with a high-flying dunk. Even when he is not on the floor, though, the co-captain of this year’s team is a valuable leader off the court.

Rasheed Hazzard, a back-up point guard and the least-used of the four GW seniors, is perhaps the player on the team who has learned and matured the most during his four years at GW.

Hazzard, the son of former UCLA great Walt Hazzard, journeyed across the country from Los Angeles, Calif. to Washington, D.C. to attend GW and play basketball. He was a crowd favorite his freshman season, although he saw very limited time, usually at the end of the game.

The honeymoon was over by his sophomore year. Hazzard’s father suffered a nearly-fatal stroke; he lost much of his speech and will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

The younger Hazzard, according to his mother Jaleesa, has been strengthened by the strain of his father’s illness and has benefited from his time at GW, even if his college basketball career did not flourish as he and his family perhaps hoped.

“He’s done well and he’s really gotten it together, and it’s been hard for him to be far away from home,” Rasheed’s mother said. “It’s been very good for him.”

Saturday’s game was an especially meaningful one for Hazzard; it was the first college game his father was able to attend in person. He played just three minutes of the game, but said afterwards that despite his disappointment, he was glad his father was able to watch from the bleachers.

“It means the world to me to have him still able to interact with me and other people,” Hazzard said. “It means more to me than any game or any paycheck I’ll ever get.”

After Hazzard and Green witnessed their final Colonial home game, both went to the student section to shake hands with some of the fans, who have supported them over the years.

“I love the fans, and their energy, and they have always been really positive,” Hazzard said. “They make me feel good inside. It made me feel good just to go and say thank you for four years of good times. Somebody has to let them know we appreciate them.”

While the fans are unquestionably proud of GW’s four seniors, probably nobody is more proud than their biggest fan – Coach Jarvis. Jarvis has taken this group of seniors to two NCAA Tournaments and two National Invitational Tournaments.

“I hope they are half as proud as I am of what they helped to establish and what they’ve helped to accomplish,” Jarvis said. “This particular group of seniors will have gone to four consecutive postseason events, and that’s one hell of an accomplishment.”

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