Colonials Invasion jump-starts basketball season

Throngs of students jammed the sidewalks of 22nd and G streets to check out Colonial Invasion 2005, the official start of what senior forward Mike Hall predicted will be “a special season.”

The doors of the Smith Center opened at 7:45 p.m., and thousands of eager students shuffled in to the band’s rendition of the GW Fight Song. Many of those in attendance donned GW gear, which indicated some success of a push by the Spirit Program and Colonial Army to increase school spirit for sports teams. About 3,500 people attended the event,

Although the student section was decidedly rowdier, the local residents had a lot more to be excited about than years past, and they were not afraid to show it. Eleven-year old Teddy Smith of McLean, Va., roots for the Colonials because they’re “better than other teams”, referring to D.C.-area powerhouses Georgetown and Maryland.

“GW’s more exciting than Georgetown,” said Gwen Jackson, a Maryland resident and recent Georgetown alumnus swept by Colonials fever.

Cheerleader and Spirit Program member Heruy Dawit said that in comparison to events of the past, this year had “a lot more people and more prizes”. The biggest of those prizes was a raffle for a free trip to the Bahamas, won by freshman Jessica Gianone.

In addition to the prizes and video highlights of last year’s greatest GW basketball moments was a short performance by the world-renowned Harlem Globetrotters.

The nationally ranked dance and cheer teams were the first teams students saw perform. Shortly thereafter, the women’s team came out, including last year’s Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year Kimberly Beck, who helped GW upset Mississippi in last year’s tournament before losing to number one seed North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C. Coach Joe McKeown reminded the audience that fans will get to see the women take on Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse Virginia, as well as Pat Summit and the historically top-ranked Tennessee Volunteers at the Smith Center in December.

After a laser light show, the men’s team came out to roaring applause. After introducing the incoming class of recruits, the men wowed the crowd with high-flying dunks from senior Pops Mensah-Bonsu and junior Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock. Coach Karl Hobbs dedicated this season to the seniors.

“Five guys who came to GW, not because of great basketball, but because they believed in the value of a great education,” Hobbs said while standing alone at center court.

Hobbs also acknowledged the growth and improvement the men’s program has seen since his coaching tenure began five years ago.

In the end, fans were not disappointed. Sophomore Sam Levenback said GW is “going to be a great team. (Freshman guard Noel) Wilmore is going to be a zone-buster.”

Junior Andrew Akins, when asked what he liked best about this year’s Colonials Invasion compared to others, exclaimed that the “lasers rocked.” Freshman students who are unfamiliar with such grandiose events were also impressed.

“It was super-cool. I liked the dancers,” freshman Sarah Peacock said.

-Jake Sherman contributed to this report.

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