Season in review: Men’s basketball shows glimpse of future success despite losing 17 games

The GW men’s basketball team began the 2002-03 season with hopes for its first winning season in four years. While that did not happen, the team did have some intangible successes. Click for image

Relying heavily on a talented freshman class, the Colonials became a tougher team to beat than last year, but opponents were still able to do so 17 times.

GW Head Coach Karl Hobbs called the season a successful one given the team’s youth but said that inexperience also prevented his team from taking advantage of every opportunity.

“Overall, it was a good season, and we even had a chance to overachieve a little,” he said on the phone from New Orleans Sunday. “But we just weren’t mature enough to do that this year.”

Hobbs pointed to the close games the team played against highly ranked opponents and said his team did not have the experience to turn those games into wins.

“We were right there against a Final Four team (Texas), Maryland and Connecticut,” he said. “And we had the opportunity to beat Xavier all three times we played them, so you have to say to yourself that it was a good season.”

GW played three close games against Xavier and All-American David West but came up short all three times. For many GW fans, the hardest loss came at Xavier when West tipped in a missed shot at the buzzer to hand the Colonials a 71-70 defeat March 1.

But the close losses did not dishearten Hobbs or his team, the coach said, as they were able to stay positive and view the games as learning experiences that would help them down the road.

“Anytime you lose a game it feels like the world is coming to an end,” Hobbs said. “But, especially when you have so many young guys playing such a large role, it is difficult to categorize anything as a low point.”

The team’s youth and immaturity presented obstacles throughout the year, as all four of its freshman recruits started at some point in the season – if not all season, in the case of Mike Hall.

“Mike Hall was just tremendous for us all year,” Hobbs said. “He was physically the most ready of all the freshmen. But by the end of the year, everyone had progressed and we were clearly a better and different basketball team.”

In contrast to depending on youth, as he did his first two seasons, Hobbs said he is hoping for a program that doesn’t have to rely on freshmen to play more than 20 minutes per game. That, he said, will be the best indication of the team’s progress.

In addition to GW’s youth, one of the biggest stories of the year was the sendoff of senior Chris Monroe. In the opening round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, Monroe led GW to a win at Massachusetts by scoring 23 points, breaking Joe Holup’s all-time GW scoring record.

Monroe scored in double figures in every game of the season and played his final game at the Smith Center before a packed gym in a victory over Fordham March 8.

“The biggest thing Chris will leave with this program is his work ethic,” Hobbs said. “For us to have so many young guys around here seeing him work his hardest every single day is just invaluable.”

Monroe’s departure means the group of young players, led by point guard T.J. Thompson, who will be a junior next year, has big shoes to fill. Looking ahead to next season, Hobbs said he hopes his team will meet the challenge.

“Next year the biggest thing is knowing that we will be physically stronger and will have more depth,” he said. “We hope that all the current freshmen have the same development that T.J. did after his freshman year. That’s what this program is about, and we do it well.”

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