Basketball Preview: Transfer juniors done waiting, have their turn

Cheyenne Moore and Wynton Witherspoon decided it was time to turn the tables. Sitting on Smith Center’s bleachers, Moore took possession of the voice recorder mid-interview, then flipped it around and began to ask questions.

“Well, how good do you think we’ll be?” Moore asked this reporter, referring to the team as a whole.

A basketball pundit who follows GW could explain that the success of the team will depend on a few things, including the play of these two juniors.

“I’m going to do whatever they need me to do to help us win,” Witherspoon said. Moore echoed the sentiment.

A desire to contribute runs especially deep in these two, who both transferred from Atlantic Coast Conference schools (Moore from Clemson, Witherspoon from Virginia Tech) and chose GW because they liked head coach Karl Hobbs and the school’s city atmosphere.

“And because of the great academics GW offers,” Witherspoon added with a smile that might as well have been a wink.

The two have forged a bond since ‘Spoon, as he is known to his teammates, came to GW before last season. Moore, who transferred the year before, said he talked to his new teammate about the life of a transfer during his year sitting out because of NCAA regulations, he recounted lots of responsibilities and few benefits: Daily practices, no road trips, no sitting on the bench and, worst of all, no playing time. Witherspoon claimed not to remember the conversation, but vividly remembered the 2006-2007 season.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Witherspoon said with a Southern twang distinct to his hometown of Atlanta. Last season, Moore followed his year off with a season that may have been harder. He suffered a stress fracture in his right tibia during the preseason and played just seven underwhelming games. Without the explosiveness that made him a top-100 recruit out of high school, Moore looked lost on the court.

Moore goes by Chey (pronounced “shy”), but for better or worse, he is not at all timid. He won’t hesitate to take a shot well beyond the three-point line or try a circus shot when perhaps a regular layup will suffice. If they go in, he is all over the highlight reels. If not, he’s called cocky and selfish.

Head coach Karl Hobbs said Moore is the Colonials’ best on-the-ball backcourt defender, but Moore struggled on both ends of the floor last season. At times, he appeared frustrated after making a poor play, causing some to label him a malcontent – a streetballer with an attitude who did not care to try. Now healthy, Moore is eager to live up to his hype.

“I heard what everyone said but that wasn’t what bothered me,” Moore said. “I was mentally ready to go, but physically my body wasn’t. I tried to come back too soon. That wasn’t me out there.”

No wonder he and Witherspoon can’t wait to get on the court and finally make a positive impact.

Witherspoon impressed just about everybody in the team’s Oct. 31 exhibition against the University of the District of Columbia, leading the team with 20 points. He looks like a kid on a sugar rush when playing, constantly bouncing around the floor, but also has an intensity he showed when the Colonials were trailing the Division II team.

Hobbs said he expects Witherspoon to play with that type of energy all season. At 6-foot-7, 197 pounds, the ‘Spoon fits the long, lean, versatile mold of a “GW player” as well as anyone. Although he prefers to play on the wing, he can do almost everything on the court with proficiency.

Despite having played just one game, Witherspoon has already become a fan favorite at Smith Center. Like Moore, he does not take himself too seriously – during the team’s open practice, he was the only player to wear his jersey backwards.

“It’s just basketball,” Witherspoon said. “I mean, it’s a business and it’s important but I try to have fun.”

“I think I’m funnier than people give me credit for,” he half-joked at the team’s media day.

Witherspoon’s versatility and ability to play small forward may be enough to get him into the starting lineup, at least while sophomore point guard Travis King is recovering from injury.

So how good will GW’s men’s basketball team will be? If Moore and Witherspoon play up to their capabilities and mesh well with the team’s established players, they will provide the Colonials with a depth few teams can keep up with. And that will give them even more reason to laugh.

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