The GW men’s and women’s basketball teams will hold their first practice of the season Saturday, and players and coaches alike said they are excited to get back on the court together.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while,” sophomore forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu said. “I had knee surgery over the summer, so I’m ready to get back into the gym.”
The men’s team plans to practice hard so it can improve on last year’s 12-17 record. Despite the sub-.500 finish, the Colonials showed promise, defeating NCAA Tournament-bound St. Joseph’s at home and dropping two close games to nationally ranked Xavier.
Sophomore guard Mike Hall said the men think they can make some noise in the Atlantic 10 this season, but a tough non-conference schedule lies ahead. Two games in particular stood out to Hall, the Colonials’ opener at University of North Carolina-Charlotte Nov. 21 and an away match-up against University of Texas Dec. 29.
The Colonials graduated only one senior from last year’s squad, GW’s all-time leading scorer Chris Monroe, and Hall said the incoming freshmen are ready for the challenge of college ball.
“The freshmen are in shape and I’m already learning from them,” he said. “I’m real excited to get out there and get acquainted with my new teammates.”
There is also excitement on the women’s side, with head coach Joe McKeown’s team coming off a successful season. In 2002, the Colonials won 25 games and the A-10 Tournament before falling to Villanova in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The team returns four of five starters, including Cathy Joens, last year’s A-10 player of the year, and star center Ugo Oha.
“Our players are excited coming off a championship last year,” McKeown said. “All the momentum carries over. We want to prove we can play with the best teams in the country.”
The Colonials are scheduled to play five teams that made the NCAA tournament last year, with the early part of their schedule looking particularly difficult. After opening against Georgetown Nov. 21, tough match-ups include Penn State University in late November and Boston College, University of Florida and perennial powerhouse University of Tennessee in December.
As far as practices go, McKeown said he would get right down to business.
“When you have a schedule like we have you can’t waste a lot of time. We’re going to get right into things,” he said. “Our players are very excited, but this type of schedule puts gray hairs on coaches’ heads real quick.”
Both teams will practice in the Smith Center Saturday, with the women starting around noon and the men following around 3 p.m.