Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A senior-laden GW team, led by a gruff but loving head coach, comes together to go on a deep run in March.
Sound familiar? There are more than a few parallels to GW’s recent championship in the National Invitation Tournament in The Blue Team, a new book by alumnus Peter Young, who played for the Colonials from 1986 to 1991.
“The story kind of evolved over the years, and there were times when I would let it sit for a couple of years and then pick it up again. It has had many different lives, and over the last few years I’ve worked pretty steady at it,” Young said.
The novel is a work of fiction, but plenty of GW tropes are featured. The team plays in the Smith Center, and both the GW Deli and Manouch (the infamous hot dog vendor who used to park a cart on 21st Street) make appearances. The events are all fictional but Young, who grew up in New Jersey like his main character, says that many of the stories are based on anecdotes from his time at GW.
“Most of the stories are inspired by events but they’re all fictional,” Young said. “I gave a little bit of the flavor and the campus.”
The novel, which Young published last month, tells the story of Thomas Conner, a New Jersey-bred freshman with a dead-eye jumper during his first year playing basketball at GW. Conner fights for playing time and tries to find his place on the team – and at the end of the season, the Colonials come together to make it to the NCAA Championship game.
“The real reason behind it is to share the message,” Young said. “It’s faith-based, but the question you would ask yourself – and I think a lot of athletes would ask themselves this – is who’s my greatest enemy, greatest adversary? Is it the guy trying to block the shot, is it the guy trying to drive past me, or is it something or someone else? And it’s really our mind, our ego, our pride, that doesn’t want to submit his individual glory for the glory of the team.”
The book has its fair share of basketball trivia and history, including the vaunted Georgetown teams of the 1980s and the shadow they cast over other District teams, like GW. Ironically, in the two seasons in which the Hoyas made the National Championship games before and after their 1984 title, the two teams in this year’s title game edged them out. North Carolina defeated Georgetown, 63–62, off a Michael Jordan game-winner in 1982, and underdog Villanova won 66–64 in 1985, the Wildcats’ only title before this year’s.
There are also a few more parallels between the book and this season: In the book, the Colonials get a key win over Florida, like this year’s squad did during its NIT run. There’s another big win against DePaul, which obviously didn’t happen this year. But can’t we lay that to rest already?
GW also benefits in the book’s NCAA Tournament, as a 10-seed, from an unexpected upset in the 2/15 matchup in its bracket. There’s some debate over the value of shooters versus drivers that mimics plenty of conversations surrounding postseason matchups, including the title game, as well as a lot of the current dialogue around basketball in general.
Young, who also works as a sports broadcaster in Montana, said he’d been planning the book in different iterations since just after he graduated, but the project really took shape over the last four years.
“It’s been a labor of love,” Young said. “A lot of labor, but a labor of love.”