The Full Nelson:Time for women to fulfill potential

From high school to college to professional sports, teams frequently create maxims, words that they plan to live by. The most famous of these is employed at Notre Dame, where football players run down the locker room stairs and touch a sign that reads, “Play like a champion today.”

While GW has no famous signs or nationally renowned maxims, the women’s basketball team has T-shirts, the backs of which say, “Potential is nothing. Performance is everything.”

While this message is both noble and true (and like most maxims, a little hokey), it means nothing on a T-shirt. After all, performance is everything, right? Well now is the time for GW’s women to heed this message because they possess something rare – everything a college team could want – but their performance is lacking.

They have experience with four seniors and one junior in the starting lineup.

They have stars in two-time Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Cathy Joens and A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Ugo Oha.

They also have Anna Montanana, Val Williams, Marsheik Witherspoon and Liz Dancause, all of whom are more than capable of putting together good games in case Joens or Oha falter.

And yet right now, as they sit and wait for an NCAA Tournament berth that will likely come Sunday, they are as intimidating as Martha Stewart in a jail fight.

GW was well on its way to fulfilling its potential earlier this year when the Colonials won eight straight games by 12 points or more following a stunning home loss to St. Joseph’s. But after an impressive road win at Richmond, GW began to struggle, needing a miracle shot to beat Xavier before sluggish performances led to ugly wins against Dayton and Rhode Island.

The women’s poor play finally caught up with them at Duquesne, where their 11 game winning streak was snapped.

Now I’m fully aware that complaining about a team that went 14-2 in conference shows how spoiled I am, and if head coach Joe McKeown reads this, he’ll tell me I don’t appreciate the grind of a conference season. But I think my cause for concern is justified based on the way the Colonials played in barely beating La Salle before losing to St. Joseph’s in the A-10 Tournament.

Because of their early season wins over the University of Oregon and Boston College and their strong conference season, the Colonials will make the NCAA Tournament. But while many of us originally thought this team would eclipse last year’s second round exit, it would be a challenge to find anybody who possesses that confidence today.

If GW wants to save its season, it can. But I put that onus on the Colonials’ stars.

Last year Ugo Oha displayed a fire and a passion that carried the women and energized them in close games. For most of this year, that passion has been missing.

I want the Ugo who screams after a block. I want the Ugo who pumps her fists as she runs down the court. I want the Ugo who scares the crap out of me.

Cathy Joens is a stoic player who leads by example, and I don’t want that to change. But while she has been a clutch performer in the regular season for her entire career, she has struggled in the last two A-10 Tournaments. She did score 22 points in last year’s NCAA Tournament win over Oklahoma, but then disappeared with 11 points in GW’s second round loss to Villanova.

I want the Cathy who takes a three with confidence the whole arena feels. I want the Cathy who comes off so many screens that her defender feels like a crash test dummy. I want the Cathy who dominates every defense the other team tries until they’re forced to stop doubling Ugo, so she can dominate too.

No matter what transpires in the NCAA Tournament, Oha and Joens will go down as two of GW’s greatest women’s basketball players ever. But if they want to create legacies to compare with former greats Tajama Abraham and Lisa Cermignano, they must come together and will this team to at least the Sweet 16.

Only then will this team’s performance match its potential.

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