Squads welcome eight new faces

In order to fill holes in their rosters, men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs and women’s basketball head coach Joe McKeown took opposite approaches in recruiting for the 2005-2006 season.

Hobbs went after athletic guards and swingmen to replace T.J. Thompson, while McKeown went after big post players to take the place of Anna Monta?ana. Each coach, however, went after a certain type of player who would excel at GW.

Hobbs’s freshmen, Noel Wilmore from Philadelphia, Robb Diggs from Brandywine, Md., and Montrell McDonald from Fort Worth, Texas, are all what Hobbs describes as typical GW players. “Long, lean, athletic and having a very high basketball IQ,” Hobbs said of the players he looks for.

“All three freshmen are going to have moments where they’re going to do some special things,” Hobbs said. “Each freshman brings a certain skill to the mix for us. Noel is a fantastic shooter, he may be one of the best shooters that I’ve ever been around, with the exception of Ray Allen of course. Roberts Diggs is a very versatile guy with a wide range of abilities and Montrell (McDonald) is going to develop to be one of our better athletes. He’s sort of a J.R. Pinnock-type of player.”

The freshmen on Hobbs’ squad were not made available for comment.

Wilmore, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, is garnering praise about his shooting ability, a skill the team needed to replenish after sharp shooter T.J. Thompson graduated. Pinnock said Wilmore may rival Thompson’s shooting abilities.

“Noel is a great shooter, ” senior forward Omar Williams said. “We’re obviously going to need that with the way we play, getting to the basket. If he comes in and knocks down shots that will be great for us because if he’s out there making shots that means guys can’t help off him and we can throw it in to (senior center Pops Menash-Bonsu) or (Pinnock) can slash to the basket.”

McDonald and Diggs are both 6-foot-8 wingmen who are being favorably compared to upperclassmen on the team, with McDonald being compared to Pinnock and Diggs described as similar to seniors Mike Hall and Williams. Both freshmen are said to be versatile, being able to play both in the post and at the perimeter, and extremely athletic. Both Pinnock and Hall said McDonald and Diggs are already two of the most athletic players in the program.

With GW’s up-tempo style of play, Hobbs said each freshman will be called upon at various points in the year to contribute.

While Hobbs admits that each player still has a lot to learn as far as adjusting to the college game, Hall has been impressed thus far with the way they have handled themselves.

“They’ve been very receptive to our leadership and have been acting the right way around campus, which is big for a freshman,” Hall said. “They’ve stayed after practice and worked hard, so I expect a lot from them.”

McKeown found his recruits all over the United States and Canada. The group includes Chantelle John, originally from Scarborough, Ontario; Jessica and Jazmine Adair, twins from nearby Anacostia; Jamila Bates from Seattle, Wash.; and Faith Peters, from Baton Rouge, La. All but Peters, a 5-foot-10 point guard, are more than six-feet-tall and play either power forward or center.

“One thing we had to address was I thought last year was the first year since I’ve been the coach here, since 1989, that we didn’t have a big center in the middle,” McKeown said. “We had to get big again and we addressed that in recruiting.”

John, who is listed at 6-foot-2, played on the Canadian Junior National Team at the FIBA U-19 World Championship this summer in Turkey. McKeown said she is “powerful, strong” player who will play power forward for the Colonials. She has impressed the coaching staff with her maturity and poise, which she attributes to her experience overseas this summer.

“My experience playing internationally will help me adjust to the speed and difficulty of playing at the collegiate level, so I think that’s going to help me a lot,” John said.

The Adair sisters were born and raised in the District and led Anacostia High School to four conference championships.

McKeown describes Jessica as “a little further along than her sister,” but notes that the two will still compete for time inside.

At 6-foot-1, Bates is the going to vie for time at power forward. Described by McKeown as an “excellent rebounder” who plays bigger than her size, she led Garfield High School to a Class 4A Washington State Championship in 2005.

Peters is a vocal shooting guard who can hit the midrange jumper, while also having the floor vision and knowledge of the game to make sound decisions at point. She played on numerous club teams based out of New Orleans and, Peters said, had family there whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Katrina and were forced to seek refuge in Baton Rouge.

“(Peters) could start for us as a freshman,” McKeown said. “She’s really good and a terrific young lady. She’s going to be a great player for four years.”

Although all five are highly talented prospects, it will take a joint effort for them to replace Monta?ana,

The freshmen said competition for playing time brings them closer together. During practice, they are oblivious to the fact that not all of them can play as much as the other.

“I think the freshmen are all just trying to find their way,” McKeown said. “They have a lot of growing to do, so I think that’s their biggest problem. I think they’ve done a good job of adjusting to each other and our older players have done a good job of blending them in. It’s a continual, constant challenge that teams have.”

With some of the team’s toughest games of the year, against Purdue and Tennessee, early on, the team’s maturity will be tested immediately. Because freshmen compromise more than one-third of the team, there will not be time for the new class to watch and learn from veterans in game situations.

“(I worry about the team’s maturity) a lot,” McKeown said. “We could be really good and our record be really bad (early on). I do think that that type of schedule will help us in the long run if we don’t lose confidence and don’t get to the point where those types of losses deflate us. The way the scheduling went, we couldn’t spread those tough games out.”

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