Men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs has said he wants to “reestablish the excitement of GW basketball” with a return to a high energy, high intensity style of play. With six talented and outgoing freshmen joining the team this season, hopes are high that their energy will be contagious and help re-amp the program.
“In my opinion, this is one of the best freshman classes I’ve ever seen at this school,” senior forward Damian Hollis said. “They just have a knack for things. It’s just amazing how fast they’ve picked it up. They’re already contributing.”
As Hollis said he knows from experience, the transition from high school to college basketball can be a difficult one. A much more rigorous time commitment, playing with and against a higher level of talent and, of course, keeping up with school work can be very demanding on newcomers.
These guys, however, seem to handle it well and realize what they are up against.
“The biggest difference between high school basketball and college basketball, I would say, is the physicality of the players and the speed of the game,” first-year guard Bryan Bynes said.
“You go hard all 40 minutes,” fellow freshman guard Tim Johnson said. “And the long practices are tough. It’s an adjustment going from two hours in high school to three hours in college.”
The half-dozen players feature a variety of talents. There is 6-foot-9, 223-pound center Daymon Warren, a California native who, though currently injured, head coach Karl Hobbs believes has terrific physical tools and will benefit from the mentoring of the team’s older big men.
Three guards – Bynes, Johnson and local product Lasan Kromah of Greenbelt, Md. – offer the Colonials a new look in the backcourt. Kromah has been described by Hobbs as “a rangy guy who has slashing ability and can shoot very well,” a description he fulfilled with a team-best 14 points in Saturday’s preseason exhibition game.
Meanwhile, David Pellom, a 6-foot-8 forward from North Carolina, and 6-foot-6 Canadian swingman Dwayne Smith may create matchup problems for opposing defenses with their size and athleticism.
Perhaps as importantly as the group’s on-court merits is the chemistry already present between them.
“They’re a very cohesive group,” Hobbs said. “They all came early for second-session summer school, they really got a chance to bond, to know each other, talk about each other’s families, and talk about other things off the court.”
The opportunity seems to have paid off.
“We’re all close,” Pellom said. “Everyone’s coming from different parts of the United States, East Coast, West Coast, down South, we’re all bonding together. Everywhere we go, we’re together. You either see two of us or none of us.”
Hobbs called Johnson “probably the biggest character of the group,” with Bynes coming in “a very close second.” Johnson’s sense of humor even led him to an interesting costume choice this Halloween.
“I found out for Halloween, he dressed up as me,” Hollis said. “So I’ve been getting along with him recently.”
With the six freshmen comprising such a large portion of the roster, they will be counted on to play and contribute immediately, forcing them to do much of their learning on the job rather than through observation.
For their part, the newcomers seem eager to answer the challenge.
“Coach Hobbs recruited us to make an impact right away, not to sit back and learn,” Bynes said. “I think every single one of us will make an impact on this team.”