We’re not in Smith Center, Kansas anymore

This just in: a 6-6 Hatchet Sports Editor with an adequate knowledge of basketball and a decent short jumper is Tom Penders’ latest go-to guy off the bench.

Alright, of course I’m joking. Things haven’t fallen that far yet (Or have they? Give me a call, Coach).

But you’ve got to be wondering how a basketball team can beat a ranked Maryland team (OK, an overranked Maryland team) and lose to Duquesne (I know, it hurts to type it, too).

Well, apparently, this is a rebuilding year, as Tom Penders will tell you every few minutes if you like. It’s more like the George Washington Rebuilding Tour of Atlantic 10 Cities 2000. (Haven’t scheduled Homecoming yet? Consider the Colonials.)

Remember when the front of the Hatchet Basketball Preview asked the simple question, Reload?

Well, the answer you were looking for was, No.

And yet, if you’re not salivating with excitement on your homemade GW replica jersey, you’re just not paying attention. So, how is that – that we can be losing more games than any GW team in a decade and I’m telling everyone I see that we’re going to the Final Four in 3009? (OK, the Penders long-term plan only feels like it’s that long).

What in the world could make me follow a team this bad when I have to listen to god-awful WRGW broadcasts like the Bradley game?

Announcer No. 1: And Bernie Burro is bringing up the ball, passes to Antwan Iturbe, and – Oh, my God, did you see that?

Announcer No. 2: Wow, that was unbelievable!

Announcer No. 1: You got that right, that was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen! OK, we’re going to take a break now. The point margin between these two schools has changed by four with a certain amount of time left in the game. You’re listening to WRGW!

But, really, how can things be so different, even from just a month ago? Well, obviously, the brief answer is injuries, but behind that, one needs a firm understanding of the fine line between winning and losing.

So, before we talk about anything else, let’s get a firm grounding in basketball theory. You have to think of it this way. Let’s say Man A arm wrestles Man B, and Man A is just a little stronger. So, they wrestle 10 times. And Man A wins all 10 times. Well, that’s basketball. It’s about 120 arm wresling matches, and a score like 109-57 never meant that GW was twice as good as Duquesne. They were just a bit better every play on the court and it equaled a blowout. So, let’s not get carried away with how bad this team has gotten in so short a time. In fact, things could be a lot worse (What’s worse than going 2-14 in the conference? I hear you ask). For instance, I don’t know how long Mike Jarvis had his bags packed, but for a couple years, his recruiting was out to lunch, at least in terms of the frontcourt. Can you imagine if Tom Penders hadn’t brought in SirValiant and Chris Monroe? And then if we’d lost Mike King? I don’t think that team could have beaten the School Without Walls.

Speaking of local guys, how much am I loving this trend? I mean, some of those European players were the smartest, kindest human beings anyone around Foggy Bottom had ever seen (Koul, Yegor) but no one in D.C. gave a monkey’s uncle. You think anyone at Ben’s Chili Bowl was going to change from the Georgetown game to watch Andrei Sviridov? I mean, didn’t he fight Rocky in Moscow?

But Jarvis insisted that at GW he couldn’t recruit local talent (maybe that had less to do with GW and more to do with 50-45 scores). So then we have Tom Penders, who never saw a place he couldn’t recruit in. You like the University of Texas right now? They have the best center in the country, and I wonder who recruited him? The point is, the pipeline hasn’t stopped with Chris and Val. Now, perhaps I sound too optimistic. Perhaps you also remember my last column where I predicted Val would be compared to Iverson, that Dick Vitale would be talking about him, that he would break the Smith Center record and that GW could win the BB&T. Well, all that happened in about a week, so bear with me. (Yeah, Holt, you also said the team would go 20-9).

So, basically, we have two of the best players GW’s ever seen, and I know they screw up royally sometimes (getting ejected at St. Joe’s was just stupid) but every mistake we have to sit through makes these guys so much better. It’s one thing to be told not to take bad shots and quite another to understand why. I think the best part of this bad season is the experience the freshmen are getting. They’ve lost every which way but loose. I mean, we’ve seen blowouts, chokes, insane comebacks, 42-point games, etc., etc., and the conference season has only just started. But most of all, we’ve seen a freshman lead the nation in scoring, and we’ve seen the development of a player who looks like Charles Barkley sometimes (seriously, And One better sign Monroe to a contact, because he would lead the nation in `and ones’ if there was such a stat). And good lord, could you imagine a whole team of players like this? It’s happening slowly, but it’s happening. Penders has Shawn Davis coming in next year, and Attila Cosby will be playing in a year. Both guys are way better offensively than anyone we’ve got on the frontcourt now (with the exception of Chris and maybe Jason Smith, who with his three-pointers apparently fancies himself a shooting guard now).

So, by conference time next season, GW’s starting five will be solid, with a couple of great bench players. Otherwise, it’ll be still be thin, which is why I see the Penders Plan panning out the best in two to three seasons. And who knows? Then, Penders might be gone. So, enjoy it now. We’ll never be so lucky again to have an established coach fall into our laps who has absolutely no intention of using GW as a stepping stone.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about the rest of this year. There’s not many home games left, and unfortunately not one has been played yet while students are in class. But they’re all huge in terms of just pure fun (Isn’t it a little more fun when you don’t have to worry about the NCAA Tournament? he says delusionally). Penders is right when he says no one is playing more exciting basketball right now. Hell, how much fun was the Siena game? And we lost, too. With 12-2 St. Bonaventure coming Wednesday, this home conference season should kick off with a bang. (What – what do you mean we already played Duquesne at home? That really happened?)

(Oh, and if anyone ever gives you grief about the student section’s cursing, consider the fact that I had a professor this week say the f-word no fewer than eight times in an hour.)

So, long story short – I’m excited, so sue me. The program’s on its way to places it’s never been before. I’m not complaining because I get it. Some people might ask if Penders is actually trying to win. Well, he is, in that he’s not trying to lose, but he’s preparing this team for the next few years. It’s not like these guys were going to win the national championship. That means people might play at times when you’d rather they didn’t. It also means Val and Chris get the kind of experience you can’t get at practice.

So, try not to get too down. There’s a lot of positives. I mean, the Millennium edition of USA Today declared Sir Charles Barkley Out and SirValiant Brown In. How can you not love that? How can you not love these players?

Well, that’s enough of sounding like Tom Penders ghostwrote this column for me (and to think I wrote this and I just listened to the St. Joe’s game). It’s naked guy’s bedtime. I just leave with one comment: President Trachtenberg, make it your goal in life to get Michael Jordan to a game at the Smith Center (use that Abe Pollin/David Falk/GW connection). Because doesn’t that sound like a little more fun than Bill and Chelsea?

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