This time last year, the Colonials made national headlines after turning a charity game with the University of Tennessee into a WWF bout. A slew of bad news followed: a sexual assault conviction, a phone card scandal, the subsequent resignation of a head coach and an defunct trip to the NBA by a shooting guard.
This year, the Colonials are making headlines not by knocking people out but by knocking shots down and playing tough defense. GW ranks third in the Atlantic 10 in blocks and forced turnovers.
So, how do you make people forget about last season? How about a 10-5 record, inexperienced players acting like nothing’s new and a coach who is out to make his team an A-10 contender.
While the players have put up the numbers, specifically Chris Monroe, Jaason Smith and Greg Collucci, the biggest factor behind Colonial success so far has been coach Karl Hobbs himself.
After 15 games, GW now relies on four scoring threats, dashing notions that Monroe, who is 19th in the nation scoring 21 points a game, was the only scoring threat heading into season. GW has relied on a defense that has countered its weaknesses, namely size, by simply outworking other teams. What GW lacks in size, it compensates with stamina. GW has won five games this season with late-game comebacks, a tribute to its stamina and result of the team work ethic.
GW did not look competitive on paper three months ago, but as Hobbs said at Midnight Madness, “The one thing I can tell you about paper is this: It isn’t worth anything.” And it is that type of confidence and determination exhibited by Hobbs that has given his team the same character.
But the extent of GW’s success will now be determined by how well it can compete with the power teams in the conference. GW just defeated one of those teams, St. Bonaventure, which Hobbs called the conference’s best.
When the Colonials have played well, they have done so with major support from Smith, Collucci and freshman point guard T.J. Thompson. Thompson has been named A-10 Rookie of the Week three times. At just over 11 points and 4 assists a game, he gives Hobbs point guard leadership.
Smith can leap high enough to swat any shot below the Washington Monument, and as his minutes have doubled since last year. So have his points and rebounds. His 2.4 blocks a game are second best in the conference, and while he once shattered a glass backboard in high school, Smith is now shattering the notion that GW has no strength inside.
The change in Collucci’s role has been the most dramatic, going from less than nine minutes a game last year to starting every game this season. While his defense is suspect, Collucci can be automatic when he gets hot behind the arc, which is where almost all of his 13 points a game come from.
But teams will make adjustments; Monroe will be guarded more
heavily, Collucci will not be left open from outside and Smith will face more
powerful big men.
Hobbs, who might just blow a vocal chord before the season is finished, has given the Colonials his own tough nature and the team a new face.