Thursday night at Smith Center was the dawn of a new basketball season – and a new George.
A formal passing of the “golden hatchet” from the old Little George mascot to the new George – a more aggressive incarnation of the school namesake – was a highlight of the annual Colonials Invasion event, which ceremonially begins the basketball season at GW.
Other events included student competitions for prizes and performances by student groups before the event culminated in the men’s and women’s basketball teams running full-court drills for the fans and a performance by Capital Funk.
Official figures put the attendance at 973, with fans filling about three-quarters of the student section. This total was down from the 2,000-plus that attended last year’s event headlined by rapper Fabolous.
“In an ideal world you have 5,000 people there,” GW spirit director Nicole Macchione-Early said. “But it’s a Thursday during midterms and that’s something that I know is a challenge with students.”
Besides students’ academic and social lives, the event also had to compete with a World Series game featuring the Philadelphia Phillies, a popular team on campus. Senior Chase Carpenter said he knew “at least 30” Phillies fans who had originally planned on going to Colonials Invasion before their team reached the World Series.
Those students that did come, like freshman Jayne Blumenthal, said the event was successful despite decreased attendance.
“We need some more people here, but it was good,” she said.
Little George received a video tribute featuring a number of prominent campus figures and mascots from other universities across the country, all paying thanks for his service. He was then joined on the court by some of his brethren from DC United, the Washington Capitals and the Washington Nationals. George I, the original in the GW mascot bloodline, also came to say farewell.
“We thought what would be nice was to do this decommissioning ceremony,” Maccione-Early said. “The performance groups did a great job, but I thought that was the highlight.”
Students seemed to appreciate the celebration of George as well.
“That mascot ceremony worked,” Carpenter said. “It was a little long, but at the same time it was a nice part because no one was expecting that full of a thing.”
The mascots were not the only changing of the guard, as new women’s basketball head coach Mike Bozeman addressed fans for the first time in his new position. Bozeman promised fans “a new brand of offensive basketball” but the same familiar success enjoyed during predecessor Joe McKeown’s tenure.
“I didn’t know what to expect, to tell you the truth,” Bozeman said. “I felt like I was well-received.”
As the men’s basketball team took their turn running full-court drills for the fans, head coach Karl Hobbs took time to work with the fans on a cheer for three-point shots. Hobbs singled out senior Noel Wilmore and freshman Matt Allbritton as the team’s top deep threats, but the pair failed to convert their first few attempts, leaving the crowd waiting to execute the cheer.
“Are you guys gonna make a shot today?” Hobbs joked. Shortly after, Allbritton connected for the first time and received hearty applause.
Bozeman said that while the stands may not have been full for Thursday’s ceremonies, it may lead to larger crowds during the season.
“The best form of advertising is word of mouth,” he said. “If these people go and bring a friend then we’ll have double that. That’s the goal.”